UC Law SF Communications and Entertainment Journal


Clay Calvert


This article, pivoting on events and controversies that occurred in 2007, addresses two questions affecting freedom of expression on the broadcast airwaves: (1) Should the regulatory power of the Federal Communications Commission be expanded to include control over racist and sexist language like that used by radio host Don Imus in his infamous "nappy head hos" remark?; and (2) Should the regulatory power of the FCC be expanded, per its request to Congress, to include control over violent imagery and storylines on television, including broadcast, cable and satellite television? This article contends that the answer to both questions is the same: no. The reasons for answering the two questions in the negative sweep up a powerful combination of legal factors, social forces, and economic realities, each of which, when viewed collectively, militate overwhelmingly against the FCC increasing its censorial powers. The article analyzes and explores this mixture of forces.