The indecency fines imposed recently by the FCC have raised a lot of eyebrows, for their inconsistency as well as severity. (See Adam Thierer’s excellent discussion here.) Now, however, the FCC’s basic competence is at issue. According to Communications Daily, among the fines handed down by the Commission two weeks ago were several on stations in Indiana which aired the CBS show “Without a Trace.” Turns out however, that the stations aired the shows at 10 pm, when such content is allowed, not at 9 p.m. as the FCC believed. Apparently, the ever-vigilant regulators at the Commission didn’t know that most of Indiana is in the Eastern, not Central, time zone.
Certainly, Indiana’s time zones are confusing–the state is split between two time zones, and doesn’t go on Daylilght Savings Time. But, really, how hard could it be for the FCC to look these things up? A good Google search would have provided the answer, as would the maps in the front part of any phone book. (No doubt the FCC has lots of phone books around.)
The extra effort would seem well-justified–the stations involved were fined some $162,000 for their “violations.” That kind of money could buy an awful lot of watches.
The episode is (or should be) embarrassing to the Commission, and troubling for the rest of us. If the regulators can’t even get the time of day right, what are the odds they are getting the harder questions right? One more reason to question the whole notion of FCC speech regulations.
Perhaps it’s time for a change.