Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Court Cuts Hours for `Indecent' Broadcasts

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Court Cuts Hours for `Indecent' Broadcasts

Article excerpt

A federal appeals court has narrowed the hours during which broadcasters can air sexually explicit movies, talk shows and other "indecent" material.

But TV stations and the major broadcast networks do not expect to make any changes in their program lineups, representatives said.

The 7-4 decision Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia pushes the permissible starting time for programming deemed indecent back two hours - to 10 p.m. time from 8 p.m. The period ends at 6 a.m. each day.

The major networks are confident the ruling will not affect them. They say not one of their shows - from daytime soap operas and talk shows to "Married with Children" and "ER" - that currently air on broadcast television has been ruled indecent by the Federal Communications Commission.

All of the FCC's recent actions against indecent broadcasts have involved radio in general and shock jock Howard Stern in particular. There has not been an action against television in years.

Viewers or listeners who believe a broadcast is indecent can file a complaint to the FCC, which determines that question based on its longstanding definition.

That legal definition, not changed by the court's ruling, says indecent material is that which describes in terms patently offensive, as measured by contemporary community standards, sexual or excretory activities or organs.

Because the FCC's definition is broad, broadcasters say it has never been clear to them what shows could be deemed indecent.

"Community standards in New York are very different than the community standards in St. Louis or Peoria," said Lisa Bedian, a spokeswoman for KSDK (Channel 5) in St. Louis.

"Maybe there'll be test cases," she added.

The ruling Friday affects the regulations of the FCC and thus TV and radio broadcasting nationwide.

Unlike obscenity, indecent language or material is protected by the First Amendment. …

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