OVERNIGHT TECH: Republicans call for FCC reform in wake of indecency ruling

The court unanimously found that the fines were illegal because the FCC failed to give fair notice that fleeting expletives and momentary nudity were considered indecent.

Upton and Walden said the decision shows the need for the FCC Process Reform Act, which would slow the agency's ability to adopt new regulations.

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"How much longer can we allow bad process to produce bad results?" they asked.

The bill, authored by Walden, would require the FCC to demonstrate the necessity of new regulations, restrict the types of conditions the agency could impose on corporate mergers and require the agency to set binding timelines for its proceedings.

The bill's supporters say it would increase transparency and accountability and provide certainty for businesses.

But Democrats argue the measure would hinder the FCC's ability to protect consumers.

The bill cleared the House earlier this year, but the Senate has no plans to take up the legislation.

Policymakers, advocacy groups react to ruling: Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), an advocate of the FCC's power to enforce decency standards, said he was "encouraged" by the Supreme Court's decision, which upheld the government's authority to police the airwaves.

"The decision leaves in place the FCC’s authority to protect children from indecent programming," he said. "This is a victory for those of us who believe that we must be doing more, not less, to give the FCC and parents all across America the resources they need to protect their children from indecent programming.”  

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski seemed to shift the blame for the court scrapping the FCC's fines to his predecessors in the George W. Bush administration. He said the decision "appears to be narrowly limited to procedural issues related to actions taken a number of years ago." 

"Consistent with vital First Amendment principles, the FCC will carry out Congress’s directive to protect young TV viewers,” he said.

Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai said the decision "highlights the need for the Commission to make its policy clear." 

"I look forward to working with my colleagues to provide the clarity that both parents and broadcasters deserve," Pai said. "At this point, the best way for us to proceed is to get to work resolving the multitude of indecency complaints that have piled up during this litigation."

Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell urged his agency to "expeditiously implement the Court’s decision to put an end to years of litigation and uncertainty regarding the Commission’s regulation of indecent content on America’s airwaves."

Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said families "look to both industry and government to ensure that no child is unduly influenced by harmful material before they reach the age of understanding," but that commission will be mindful of the First Amendment.

Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said only that she will work with her colleagues to develop a policy that protects children but doesn't exceed the FCC's authority. 

Family advocates claimed victory with the ruling.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins claimed the court gave the FCC the "green light" to impose indecency fines.

"When a similar case goes before the Supreme Court again for fines imposed for any future violations, we expect the Court to once again decide that fleeting expletives and brief nudity are not protected under the First Amendment," he said.

Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council, said the court ruled against “the networks in their years-long campaign to obliterate broadcast decency standards."

“Broadcast decency rules have existed to protect children since the dawn of the broadcast medium," Winter said. "It is for their sake that there will still be decency rules and the TV networks will be required to abide by them.”

Senate Commerce sets new privacy hearing: Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, announced a hearing on Thursday to examine whether industry self-regulation will be enough to protect consumers' privacy.

The hearing, scheduled for June 28, will be a follow-up to the committee's May 9 hearing on the administration's online privacy plan.

"In this follow-up hearing, I intend to closely examine how industry intends to fulfill its recent pledge to not collect consumers’ personal information when they utilize the self-regulatory ad icon or make 'do-not-track' requests in their web browsers,” Rockefeller said in a statement.

The witnesses will be Bob Liodice, president and CEO of the Association of National Advertisers; Peter Swire, law professor at the Ohio State University; Berin Szoka, president of think tank TechFreedom; and Alex Fowler, global privacy and policy leader for Mozilla.


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