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Archive for Thursday, April 1, 2004

Broadcasters to consider code of conduct

April 1, 2004

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— Broadcasters meeting Wednesday to discuss indecency said they would consider an industry code of conduct, an idea the nation's chief telecommunications regulator suggested they should pursue.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell said if the industry left it to the government to set strict standards for broadcast decency, it wouldn't like the result.

"You do not want to ask the government to write a 'Red Book' of dos and don'ts," Powell told the gathering organized by the National Association of Broadcasters. "I understand the complaint about knowing where the line is, but heavier government entanglement through a 'dirty conduct code' will not only chill speech, it may deep-freeze it. It might be an ice age that would last a very long time."

NAB President Eddie O. Fritts Jr. said a code was mentioned by most speakers at the daylong seminar, and would be seriously considered. He said the discussion would continue at the NAB's annual meeting later this month.

The original code was dropped in 1982 under Reagan administration pressure, on both antitrust and First Amendment grounds.

NAB brought more than 350 broadcasters to Washington in the wake of congressional legislation to raise the maximum fine for indecency from $27,500 to $500,000. The broadcasters also heard the outrage following the now-infamous Feb. 1 Super Bowl halftime show, which ended with singer Justin Timberline exposing Janet Jackson's right breast to millions of TV viewers. The incident generated more than 500,000 complaints.

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