Court Rules Against Bush Era Censorship Under Indecency Rules

An appeals court has thrown out the indecency policy used by the FCC during the Bush administration to attack the media. Media Decoder reports:

A United States appeals court tossed out the indecency policy of the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday, calling it a violation of the First Amendment.

An appeals panel said the F.C.C. policy was “unconstitutionally vague, creating a chilling effect that goes far beyond the fleeting expletives at issue here.”

The ruling was immediately characterized as a victory for big broadcasters like ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, which have been fighting the indecency policy for years.

Tuesday’s ruling vacates a 2004 decision by the Bush administration F.C.C. to step up enforcement of the indecency policy on the broadcast airwaves. Earlier that year, the singer Janet Jackson’s breast was bared during the Super Bowl halftime show on CBS, reigniting a decades-old debate about broadcast standards.

For once even Fox is on the right side in this battle against censorship:

In a statement, Fox Broadcasting said it was extremely pleased by Tuesday’s decision. “We have always felt that the government’s position on fleeting expletives was unconstitutional,” said the company, a unit of the News Corporation. “While we will continue to strive to eliminate expletives from live broadcasts, the inherent challenges broadcasters face with live television, coupled with the human element required for monitoring, must allow for the unfortunate isolated instances where inappropriate language slips through.”

This is a positive move towards defending First Amendment rights, but I wonder what will happen if this goes to the Supreme Court which remains under right wing domination.

Update: A Message For The FCC

Next Front In The Culture War: Contraception

The next battle in the “culture wars” might be over contraception. The right had some victories in restricting abortion during the health care reform debate, but Dana Goldstein warns of efforts on the right to restrict access to contraception:

Could prescription birth control—whether the pill, an IUD, or a diaphragm—soon be free of cost for most American women?

Polls suggest the majority of Americans would support such a policy. But the Daily Beast has learned that many conservative activists, who spent most of their energies during the health-care reform fight battling to win abortion restrictions and abstinence-education funding, are just waking up to the possibility that the new health care law could require employers and insurance companies to offer contraceptives, along with other commonly prescribed medications, without charging any co-pay. Now the Heritage Foundation and the National Abstinence Education Association say they plan to join the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in resisting implementation of the new provisions…

Reproductive-rights advocates are openly lobbying the Obama administration to enact the birth control changes quickly, citing the United States’ high rates of teenage and unintended pregnancy—the highest in the developed world.

“It would be a disaster for women’s health” to exclude contraception from the new requirements for insurers, said Kelly Blanchard, president of Ibis Reproductive Health, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based research organization.

Matthew Yglesias points out that this is a battle worth engaging in :

Politically speaking, I think this is the fight progressives have been wanting to have for some time now—something that would highlight the deeply reactionary and anti-woman ideology that drives the main institutional players in the anti-abortion movement.

Plus it would highlight the different attitudes on the left and right on government controlling the lives of individuals. After all, many on the right desire not only to ban government funding of abortion and birth control but to actually prohibit abortion and birth control.

Meaningful Use Rules For Electronic Medical Records Finally Released–All 864 Pages

The long-awaited final rules on “meaningful use” for electronic medical records were finally released today. The federal government, to push everyone towards electronic medical records, is initially paying incentives and down the road threatens penalties for those who have not converted. One problem is that it has been difficult to make decisions on the purchase of systems when the final rules for what meets the government requirements were not yet available.

The good news is that some of the initial requirements, which were difficult to meet, have been relaxed. I cannot yet be certain about all of this until I wade through all the details. Here’s the rules–all 864 pages in a pdf file. Fortunately some sources such as The New England Journal of Medicine are presenting shorter summaries.

I don’t want to sound like a tea bagger whining about everything the government does, but is it really necessary for all regulations to be so wordy as to prevent us from actually reading through them? It’s not like this is a one shot event. Last month we had the release of the federal rules for using electronic prescribing programs to transmit prescriptions for controlled substances in a similarly sized pdf file. Making matters worse, those rules are very hard to comply with. Apparently some people in the government believe that there is a greater risk of someone hacking into an electronic prescribing program than of forging a paper prescription. Personally I think that my current electronic prescribing system is more secure than paper prescriptions, even without all the added security measures being required for controlled substances.

At least these regulations are relatively short compared to those 2000 page documents I waded through while the health care reform legislation was being prepared.