The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Saturday, April 10, 2004
Broadcasters have other FCC other worries than censorship - and the FCC financial shambles
I seem to remember that one problem for a broadcaster wishing to challenge a NAL  is that all proceedings before the FCC are frozen until the issue is resolved. A company like Viacom and its subsidiaries  would have a lot of irons in the fire with the FCC at any one moment, I suspect, and far more valuable than even the new, enhanced level of fine that the latest Stern NAL proposes.
If the rule exists, would it be open to challenge? The Chevron Doctrine - previously discussed on March 25 - would presumably be relevant here.
Jeff Jarvis mentions a Center for Public Integrity piece which analyses in some detail the fines levied by the FCC for indecency violations.
It also points out that broadcasters are much more concerned with the media concentration rules than broadcast censorship. The FCC relaxed the rules last year, and an unholy alliance got sections of Congress riled (work back from November 26 2003). The rider attached to one of the appropriations bills failed last year; but the matter is far from dead: HR 4069 seems to be the most recent effort - currently with the House Commerce Committee. The issue has not gone away.
(Whether appeasement on HR 3717/S 2056 to curry favour on media concentration is a wise tactic is, perhaps, another question.)
I'd previously noted the odd history of fines on Infinity (March 14). And the CPI notes a GAO report which says that
...at the end of fiscal year 1998 the FCC estimated it had an uncollected balance of about $15 million for all civil monetary penalties, including indecency. FCC officials told the GAO that about 75 percent of the outstanding proposed or assessed penalties would remain uncollected.
Pisspoor management, then?
The difficulty for the FCC is that, even when a company exhausts its appeals and the FCC upholds a fine, the commission has no authority to collect it. The case is referred to the Department of Justice where the whole process may well start all over again.
My guess is that both USG and broadcasters were quite happy to see the FCC carry on indefinitely as a shambles. Then, a certain beige mammary makes its appearance - and now everyone's screwed.
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