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Annotated Bibliography

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Annotated Bibliography #1 of 5

Levi, L. (2008). The FCC's Regulation of Indecency. . Washington DC: First Amendment Center.

 

The report by Levi (2008) had the primary objective of describing the history of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) regulation of cases of broadcast indecency as well as FCC’s decisions undertaken in the recent past to play a more active role with respect to the regulation of indecency in broadcast media. Levi emphasizes that FCC has the mandate to control the broadcast of material that may be considered profane, indecent or obscene. This mandate is derived from 18 U.S.C §1464, which has defined broadcast indecency as any material that describes or depicts excretory or sexual organs or activities in ways that blatantly offensive in accordance with modern day community standards for a specific medium of broadcast. Contrary to obscene content, which can be prohibited wholly from airwaves, indecent content can be broadcasted during late-night hours, which are currently set at 10 pm to 6 am. In addition, the United States Supreme Court, the FCC v. Pacifica (1978), affirmed FCC’s right to channel indecency in broadcast content against the First Amendment. As a result, FCC can make use of its regulatory power to control broadcast content. Levi (2008) asserts that the FCC’s exercise of its regulatory power has had a profound effect on broadcasting content. Specifically, FCC has been effective in increasing self-censorship and timorousness from broadcasters. In addition, Levi points out that the FCC’s stance on broadcast indecency including congressional pressure and lobbying have resulted in significant impacts on both traditional and electronic media. According to Levi, the effects of self-regulation are evident in both non-broadcast and broadcast subscription services. The underlying inference from the report is that the regulatory power vested in FCC has the potential controlling the broadcast content, particularly with regard to controlling indecent materials on the airwaves.

Annotated Bibliography #2 of 5

Phillips, G. B. (2005). Indecent Content on Satellite Radio: Should the FCC Step In. Loyola of Los Angeles Entertainment Law Review, 26(2/4), 237-286.

 

Currently, FCC does not have the statutory authority to control indecent content that is broadcasted over satellite radio. FCC’s regulatory powers are only limited to terrestrial radio. Nevertheless, Congress is deliberating on a legislation that could give FCC regulatory powers over satellite radio in the same way it controls terrestrial radio. In this regard, Phillips (2005) explored the possibility of FCC indecency standards on subscription-based radio companies that broadcast over the satellite. Phillips argues that allowing FCC to regulate satellite radio will amount to a violation of free speech. In this article, the authors outlines the origins of FCC including its role in regulating content in broadcast radio. The author also looks at how the FCC as well as the federal courts categorize speech that is considered obscene, indecent and decent. Other crucial aspects discussed in the article include the judicial review method used for FCC rulings, FCC’s existing policy as regards the content of satellite radio and the new legislation being discussed in Congress that could give FCC regulatory powers over satellite radio. Lastly, Phillips explains the reasons for restricting free speech rights to free broadcast media as outlined in the First Amendment. For Phillip, the reasons for restricting free speech rights for the case of broadcast radio are not applicable to satellite radio; this is because there are relatively less restrictive measures to prevent children from being exposed to indecent content broadcasted over satellite radio that restrictions imposed by the government. In addition, Phillip argues that, despite the fact that mobility of satellite radio differentiates it from other media such as the Internet and cable awareness, laws relating to public nuisance can be used to effectively address the issue instead of bringing in the FCC.

Annotated Bibliography #3 of 5

Ruane, K. A. (2014). Freedom of Speech and Press: Exceptions to the First Amendment. Congressional Research Service, 1-34.

 

The First Amendment to the US Constitution prevents Congress from enacting any law that infringes the freedom of the press and freedom of speech. As a result, the government is restricted from limiting the speech of the public. Nevertheless, Ruane (2014) emphasizes that the prohibition on the government to infringe on the freedom of speech and freedom of the press is not absolute. This is because there are some forms of speech that have to be banned completed. In addition, there are some types of speech that can regulated with ease in accordance with the location where the speech occurs. In this regard, the report by Ruane (2014) outlines the main exceptions to the First Amendment, especially with regard to the manner in which the US Supreme Court has interpreted the right to freedom of the press and speech to waive protection or provide only limited protection for specific speech types. For instance, the Supreme Court made a ruling indicating that the First Amendment does not offer protection for child pornography, obscenity, or any speech form that comprises of “fighting words”. In addition, the Supreme Court has also made a ruling indicating that the First Amendment does not offer full protection for speech by public employees; speech that broadcast over television and radio (contrary to speech broadcast over the Internet or cable); speech that is likely to be hurtful to children; defamation (slander and libel); and commercial speech. In addition, even the form of speech that is subject to full protection by the First Amendment is subject to the laws and regulations of the place, time and way of expression; this are considered neutral and can be amended to take into account the interest of the government while at the same time leaving room for adequate communication channels. The report by Ruane is crucial because it summaries the various standards that the government has to consider when trying to regulate speech in a manner that is constitutional, including speech broadcasted over the radio. Therefore, the report provides a guideline through which the government can regulate speech content on radio, which will be helpful in addressing the research question.

Annotated Bibliography #4 of 5

Salomon, E. (2008). Guidelines for broadcasting regulation. . London: Commonwealth Broadcasting Association.

 

Digital technology is increasingly making it difficult for governments or independent entities to control broadcast media. In this regard, the book by Solomon (2008) offers guidelines that can be adopted in controlling content in broadcast media. Solomon acknowledges that the broadcast media environment is dynamic and changing rapidly; as a result, in his book, he explores the balancing acts that stakeholders in the private sector and government can adopt to ensure that they develop and sustain a broadcast regulation framework that is credible and effective. According to Solomon, a balancing act is needed to ascertain which facets of broadcasting ought to be controlled in order to protect the public while at the same time ensuring that freedom is not curtailed. In such a case, Solomon emphasizes on the importance of striking a balance between the goal of the government in pursuing public policy objectives and ensuring the independence of the body regulating broadcast media. Other factors that need balancing include the conflicting rights of the individual, society and the broadcaster. Another crucial contribution by Solomon related to the discussion on emerging issues that are likely to cause misunderstanding in the regulatory system. Examples of such issues include jurisdictional issues for telecommunication and cable as transmission carriers of broadcast programmes; the role that the government plays with respect to the switch to digital transmission; issues relating the intellectual property rights of broadcasters; and issues related to spectrum management. This publication is important for policy makers who are looking for a regulatory mechanism and framework that be used in controlling broadcast content. Specifically, the publication offers crucial insights that independent broadcasting regulators can use in controlling media content.

Annotated Bibliography #5 of 5

Varona, A. E. (2005). Out of Thin Air: Using First Amendment Public Forum Analysis to Redeem American Broadcasting Regulation. University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, 39(2), 149-198.

 

The article by Varona (2005) provides a timeline of the public trustee doctrine, sources of contradictions with the First Amendment, and regulatory and legislative failures including frustrations that have been associated with the use of free market concept on the United States Airwaves. Varona’s article also examines the public forum under the First Amendment as an optional justification for the government to adopt measures to control the public spectrum. Varona argues for the need for the government to undertake a proactive action in controlling the public speech fora.  Varona acknowledges that broadcast regulation in the United States has been characterized by unfulfilled aspirations and broken promises since it started. Early regulators of the communication industry and Congress perceived the advent of broadcasting during the early 20th century to be a new dawn in civic participation owing to the fact that broadcast stations acted as platforms that would be used in engaging the citizenry and promoting democracy. Essentially, broadcast media was perceived as a public medium; therefore, it was supposed to be used in a manner that is supposed to benefit the public. This resulted in Congress establishing a broadcast public trustee doctrine as outlined under the Radio Act of 1927 and the Communications Act of 1934. Solomon likens this law to a social contract between the broadcasters and the public; as a result, it was a requirement for broadcasters to air content that were served the necessity, interest and convenience of the public. In addition, the broadcast stations were supposed to be operated as if they were under public ownership. The achievement of this ambitious ideas have been marred by unending regulatory and legislative failures. With regard to the regulation of the broadcast media, Varona argues that the justification for government control of the media under the First Amendment has been underutilized, which the author presents as a potential solution to the issue media content control. 

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