Pro-Family Groups Continue Push to Rein in Media Indecency

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:05pm EDT

( - Pro-family and media watchdog organizations are urging President Bush to appoint a new chairman to the Federal Communications Commission who "is committed to enforcing indecency laws."

In a Jan. 31 letter to Bush, Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media, urged the selection of a new chairman who believes that "the breakdown of standards on TV and radio is a 'moral values' problem we cannot ignore." The letter was co-signed by representatives of 53 pro-family and decency groups.

Michael Powell is stepping down as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in March after four years at the helm. The president will have to nominate a replacement for Powell's seat on the commission and also decide who he wants to chair the panel. The U.S. Senate must confirm the new commissioner, but the president may choose any of the commissioners to serve as chairman, according to FCC spokesman Dave Fiske.

Peters' letter to President Bush states that "opinion polls have consistently found that a large majority of adult Americans are offended by and concerned about sex and vulgarity on TV." It calls recent fines against television network and radio "shock jocks" like Howard Stern, "steps forward for the FCC," and adds that "if there is to be a lasting impact, these steps must be repeated and expanded upon."

Since the now infamous "wardrobe malfunction" at the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show, in which singer Justin Timberlake ripped off part of fellow entertainer Janet Jackson's outfit, exposing one of Jackson's breasts, the FCC has become more serious about the issue of broadcast indecency, Peters' letter stated.

"To our knowledge," the subsequent Notices of Apparent Liability issued in 2004 against the NBC, CBS and Fox television networks "for allegedly indecent content" ... "were the first in the history of broadcasting," according to Peters.

The letter to President Bush also acknowledged an FCC crackdown on radio "shock jocks" whose programs "violated the broadcast indecency law with little or no fear of the FCC." The crackdowns, Peters pointed out, have resulted in "shock jocks being canned, shock jocks reportedly cleaning up their programs, and shock jocks moving to satellite radio."

Peters told Cybercast News Service that Commissioner Powell "made some major, major changes" in enforcing indecency laws late in his tenure, adding that "we most assuredly want to see the next FCC chairman continue with and to some extent build on" his work.

However, L. Brent Bozell III, president of the Parents Television Council and a co-signer of the letter to President Bush, is much more critical of Powell's tenure as chairman.

Powell "was clearly not willing to do the work that the public was demanding on the decency front," Bozell said on Jan. 21, upon learning of Powell's plan to step down. "And, if that's the case, it was proper for him to step aside." Bozell is also president of the Media Research Center, the parent organization of the Cybercast News Service .

Bozell said he would like to see President Bush appoint FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin as the new chairman of the panel, calling Martin a "stalwart leader on the issue of indecency."

Bill Johnson, president of the American Decency Association and another signer of the letter to Bush, also criticized Powell on Jan. 21, charging that the FCC chairman had "truly been no friend to decency," and urging the president "to appoint a Chairman who actually believes in and who will enforce the federal laws regarding broadcast indecency."

See Earlier Story:
Controversial FCC Chairman to Step Down (Jan. 21, 2005)

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