Crovitz on the First Amendment, Parenting & “The Technology of Decency”

by on July 26, 2010 · 2 comments

The always-excellent Wall Street Journal “Information Age” columnist L. Gordon Crovitz has another editorial worth reading today, which builds on the Second Circuit’s recent decision to reverse FCC content regulation for broadcasting.  In “The Technology of Decency,” Crovitz explains “parents don’t need the FCC to protect their children.” “Technology makes it easier to block seven or any number of dirty words,” he notes. “Taking the FCC out of regulating indecency might just lead to more decency by refocusing responsibility where it belongs: on broadcasters and parents.”

That’s a point I’ve hammered on her in the past and in all my work on parental empowerment solutions, including my book, “Parental Controls and Online Child Protection: A Survey of Tools and Methods.” Indeed, there has never been a time in our nation’s history when parents have had more tools and methods at their disposal to help them decide what is acceptable in their homes and in the lives of their children.  And, luckily, poll after poll shows that parents are stepping up to the plate and taking on that responsibility (contrary to what some policymakers in Washington imply).

Moreover, legally speaking, Crovitz shows why the old rationales for regulating broadcasting differently no longer work. “No medium is likely ever to be as pervasive as broadcasting once was,” he notes. He goes on to note that:

Broadcasting is no longer the pervasive, dominant medium. And unlike the Web, televisions now have tools for parents to block programs based on their suitability for kids. And the appeal court’s history of technology undermines the legal foundation for allowing broadcast censorship, including the justification that broadcast outlets are scarce. There are now more television stations than newspapers.

Indeed, that’s a point I have stressed in my work, especially my Catholic University CommLaw Conspectus law review article, “Why Regulate Broadcasting: Toward a Consistent First Amendment Standard for the Information Age.”  I also produced this video on “America’s First Amendment Twilight Zone” to better explain why the old notions of “scarcity” and “pervasiveness” no longer work as rationales for asymmetrical regulation of speech.  Anyway, make sure to read Crovitz’s excellent essay.

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