Regulators are extending the comment period on a controversial proposal to ease restrictions on cursing and “nonsexual nudity” over public airwaves.
The action drew fire Monday from opponents of the idea, who have called upon the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to scrap the plan and salvage the final vestiges of family-friendly broadcasting.
Back in April, the FCC put out a call for feedback on a plan to focus on the most egregious cases of indecency. If adopted, the less stringent regulations would reflect a shift from George W. Bush-era policies of pursuing penalties for isolated infractions on broadcast television.
There has been no shortage of feedback. The FCC has been flooded with more than 100,000 submissions, the vast majority from opponents of the proposed action.
Private citizens and traditional values argue there is already too much smut on television, and say there’s plenty of room for more adult entertainment on cable, the Internet and satellite radio.
But the networks contend that times have changed, and say their right to free speech is violated when they are penalized for broadcasting material that has become ubiquitous in other forms of entertainment.
In May, the FCC announced it was extending the comment period, with the final submissions to be filed no later than this Thursday.
College Broadcasters, Inc. (CBI), which represents students involved in radio and television, requested a second extension on July 1, noting the vast number of comments filed. CBI also cited the complexity of the proposal and its own wherewithal to respond, given a limited budget and a summer staffing shortage.
The FCC agreed to extend the comment deadline until August 2.
“We recognize the importance of affording all interested parties sufficient time to review the comments in the Docket and to prepare their reply comments,” the FCC said. “We also respect the interest of the public in having sufficient time for review and consideration of the various positions and concerns.”
The announcement drew swift rebuke Monday from the group Morality in Media, which accused the FCC of “moving the goal posts” in deference to the broadcast industry.
“What the FCC needs is commissioners who take their jobs seriously and enforce the duly passed law of Congress, which prohibits indecency and profanity on the public airwaves,” the group said in a written statement.
The group, as part of a coalition of 70 other organizations, has called upon the Senate to block the confirmation of Tom Wheeler, President Obama’s nominee to head the FCC, until he pledges to enforce the decency regulations now on the books.