April 05, 2005

Jarvis Needs To Read His Own Blog

Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-WI) wants to shift the current FCC indecency process from the regulatory agency to the criminal courts. It's already a criminal offense, it's just that right now the FCC handles it instead of the criminal courts. Why does he want this?

He says the current process casts a wide net and penalizes people who do nothing to run afoul of the law or who even try to uphold the spirit of the indecency laws. Moving to the criminal court would target the flagrant violators, Sensenbrenner believes, and spare people with no culpability in the matter. He doesn't say it should be jail time, just that the court would be more precise and fairer.

But Jeff Jarvis clearly only saw 'criminal' and 'court' and assumed Sensenbrenner wanted to increase the punishment to include imprisonment. Sensenbrenner never said anything about jail time in any of the articles I've read on the subject. In fact, the most immediate result of his basic proposal is that FEWER people would be affected by the indecency laws.

Moreover, it would decrease the power of the FCC. Sounds pretty cool to me. And I don't see why anyone should object on principle to moving it to criminal court - it would have protections for counsel, for witnesses, for fair hearings, etc. Often the protections with respect to regulators are not nearly so well developed as those in the courts, and can be harder to avoid.

I don't believe these indecency laws are a very good idea, and I certainly don't want to see people getting fired or going to jail for some curse words. I think we ought to curtail the strength of the FCC in this area; unless I'm quite mistaken, I believe that would be a necessary side effect Sensenbrenner's suggestion.

Again, Jeff Jarvis should try reading the articles he posts. It would be a shame if discussion were halted on a move that could decrease the number of people affected by FCC indecency laws just because the words 'criminal court' are part of the discussion. As long as political realities create the FCC, we should be open to reforms that could make its enforcement less haphazard. Hopefully we're intelligent enough to debate the merits of a proposal and not simply hop on the soapbox every time we get a visceral reaction to one.


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