Today in class I will attempt to answer the question “Who controls/monitors the media?” I intend to show how the FCC essentially silences free speech over broadcast and question whether or not they are in direct violation of basic 1st Amendment rights. I will cover relevant cases and analyze the results and implications of each, including FCC v. Pacifica Foundation and FCC v. Fox Television Stations. I will show how the FCC has completely reversed its existing policies and then punished companies which had broadcast instances before the changed policy. I will also explain how even a lack of guidelines can limit what networks put on the air out of fear of being fined, simply because they don’t know what will or will not be seen as indecent.
The first part of my presentation will cover the basic history of the FCC, including their purpose and structure. This part also explains how the FCC’s status as an independent agency gives it a unique ability to set, and enforce, its policies. Afterwards I’ll briefly mention the 1st amendment and cover the law from which the FCC draws its power, 18 U.S.C. §1464. I’ll then move on to the court cases relevant to the issue. FCC v. Pacifica Foundation deals with obscene words spoken over radio and sets the precedent for future indecent broadcasts. FCC v. Fox Television Stations shows how this had instantly been reversed to cover words on a much broader scale. My closing will explain the effects caused by the FCC not having clear guidelines to explain what is, or is not, indecent speech. I will also present information to listeners which suggest that the current regulations are quickly becoming outdated and ineffective in today’s new media society. Lastly, I will present questions to the class about whether or not the FCC is violating 1st Amendment rights, if the FCC is effective, and if there should be regulation at all.