Issues - Media Policy:
Media Literacy & Media Democracy
FCC Proposes Easing Up on Censorship of "Indecency"
(April 12, 2013) - After years of
controversy and litigation, the agency seems poised to abandon its rule on "fleeting expletives" and return to square one.
The Great Indecency Case Ends With a Whimper
(June 27, 2012) -Why did the Supreme Court decide not to decide whether the FCC's shifting, unpredictable, vague, and often discriminatory censorship regime violates the First Amendment?
Court Strikes Down Penalty for "Nipplegate"
(November 2, 2011) - The decision represents one more judicial rejection of the FCC’s dramatic escalation, in recent years, in the censorship of programming it perceives as “indecent.”
Back to the Past: the Government's Strategy in the "Fleeting Expletives" Case
(September 19, 2011) - The government's recently filed brief tries to dissuade the Supreme Court from considering the vagueness of the FCC's definition of "indecency" or the chilling effect of its censorship regime.
Requiem for California's Violent Video Games Law
(June 28, 2011) -
Justice Scalia's majority opinion does not allow politicians to create new exceptions to the First Amendment, but four of his brethren beg to differ.
FCC Censorship of "indecency" is Unconstitutional
(July 13, 2010) - Three judges have finally struck down the "fleeting expletives" rule.
Sarcasm Reigns as Court Revisits the FCC's "Fleeting Expletives" Rule (January 13, 2010) - Three Court of Appeals judges subjected the Federal Communications Commission to a barrage of withering sarcasm during oral argument in round 3 of Fox Television v. FCC.
Fleeting Expletives Redux: Court of Appeals Sets New Briefing Schedule
(August 4, 2009) -The Court of Appeals has set a new briefing schedule in the case challenging the FCC's rule against "fleeting expletives." Will this finally lead to the end of government censorship of the airwaves?
Supreme Court Clears the Way for Ending FCC Censorship of the Airwaves
(April 28, 2009) - At first blush, it's a win for what one dissenting justice called a "wildly expansive" claim of censorship power, but the tea leaves suggest that the Court might be ready to consign the FCC's reign of error to a well-deserved grave.
Supreme Court Blushes at Those S-words and F-words
(November 4, 2008) - The oral argument on election day in Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television was not a model of First Amendment eloquence.
Fair Use Experts Release "Best Practices" in Media Literacy
(October 28, 2008) - A new statement for media educators should remove roadblocks to fair use of copyrighted works.
Victory for "First Sale" Rule in the Case of Promotional CDs
(June 18, 2008) - A judge has ruled that music companies can't stop the trade in promo CDs.
Court Will Review "Fleeting Expletives" Case
(March 13, 2008) - A showdown is looming over FCC
censorship of "indecency" on the airwaves.
(January 16, 2008) - A federal court stops Comcast's
plan to exile public access channels to cable Siberia - at least for now.
Cellphone Companies Censor Text Messages?
(October 24, 2007) - Verizon's blocking of a Naral/
Pro-Choice America message might be illegal if text messages, like phone
calls, are covered by "common carrier" rules.
Huge Victory for Free Speech on the Airwaves
(June 4, 2007) - The U.S. Court of Appeals has invalidated
the FCC's ban on "fleeting expletives," and in the process,
cast doubt on the constitutionality of the entire "indecency"
the First Amendment"
(January 22, 2007) - A conference sponsored by the
Brennan Center and Hofstra Law School explored the viability of a "right
of access" along with other reforms that might help democratize the mass
Writers, Free Speech Groups Urge Court to End FCC Censorship
(November 30, 2006) - 20 organizations, led by the Brennan
Center, have filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that the FCC's
rules banning "profanity" and "fleeting expletives" on the airwaves are
Disconnect Between Fact and Rhetoric
(August 2, 2006) - A recent conference, "Beyond
Censorship," touts ratings and filters, and buys into myths about
proven harm from sexual or violent content.
Sheets on Media Democracy
(August 2006) - The companies that own the mass media have a powerful
influence over our culture, our political system, and the ideas that inform
public discourse. This set of interlocking fact sheets gives background
on broadcast and cable conglomerates, Internet access and WiFi, the First
Amendment and media regulation, and the movement for media reform.
Legal Needs of Media Reform Organizations: Report of a National Survey
(June 2006) - This report summarizes FEPP's nationwide survey
of media reform groups to gauge their needs for pro bono legal assistance.
Conclusions are that local media democracy groups need legal help on multiple
issues, ranging from municipal broadband to cable franchising to low-power
Neutality Takes Center Stage
(May 30, 2006) - How broadband technology and a bad
Supreme Court decision have come to threaten the once-democratic Internet.
Paper to the Nebraska Broadband Task Force: The Need to Permit Broadband
From Public Entities
(May 22, 2006) - The Brennan Center and six other
groups have filed a brief explaining why states shouldn't bar their cities,
towns, and public power companies from offering high-speed Internet access.
(March 21, 2006) - The FCC's latest "indecency" rulings
are so radical as to beg for court review.
New Use For Indecency?
(September 15, 2005) - New research suggests a link
between media giants and raunchy broadcasting - but should we base policy
decisions about media ownership on the FCC's censorship regime?
Defeats - and a Silver Lining
(June 28, 2005) - The Supreme Court's Grokster
and Brand X decisions may be disappointing, but file-sharing technology
survives, and the campaign for media democracy goes on.
Indecency is a Diversion
(March 16, 2005) - Why Senator Stevens' plan to extend indecency
regulation to cable is an unconstitutional diversion from structural regulation
of media oligopolies.
(June 2004) - In the face of dramatic media consolidation and new laws
that increase corporate copyright control, the emerging information commons
offers new ways for producing and sharing information, creative works,
and democratic discussion. FEPP's policy report describes the growing
movement for democratic alternatives to for-profit control of information
Sheet on Media Violence
(January 2004) - Answers frequently-asked questions about social science
research into the effects of media violence. The bottom line is that despite
the claims of some psychologists and politicians, the actual research
results have been weak and ambiguous.
Literacy: An Alternative to Censorship
(2002; second edition, 2003) - FEPP's survey of media literacy education
and why it is preferable to TV ratings, Internet filters, "indecency"
laws, and other efforts to censor the ideas and information available
to the young.
In Front of the Children: "Indecency," Censorship, and The Innocence
(2001, 2nd edition 2007) - From Huckleberry Finn to Harry Potter, Internet
filters to the v-chip, censorship is often based on the assumption that
children and adolescents must be protected from "indecent" speech.
In Not In Front of the Children, FEPP Director Marjorie Heins explores
the history of indecency laws and other censorship aimed at youth. Not
in Front of the Children won the 2002 American Library Association's
Eli M. Oboler Award for the best published work in the area of intellectual
For additional Materials on Media Policy in 2001-04, go to the Archives