In recent weeks, the FCC has been vigorously defending its indecency rules in Court.  First, oral arguments on the FCC’s actions against Fox and NBC for "fleeting utterances," one-time unscripted airing of profanities during television coverage of live award programs, were held the week before Christmas – with a decision possible in the upcoming months.  At the same time, briefs are being filed in the case involving Janet Jackson and the Super Bowl clothing malfunctions.  But, with more and more video moving on-line, where the FCC’s indecency rules don’t reach, who is the FCC really protecting?

A recent article in the New York Times (subscription required for full archived content) reported on NBC’s Saturday Night Live posting on the Internet an unedited copy of a partially censored animated feature that aired on its program.  If viewers can access complete, unedited content of a television program online, and that online content can be promoted on the air, unless there is some great expansion of the FCC’s power in regulating on-line activity, it seems that the FCC’s indecency crackdown doesn’t accomplish much.  But, with the pending court actions, it may well be that the FCC’s ability to regulate indecency shrinks before it increases.