Info for Filmmakers
Vermont PBS has launched a new initiative, Made Here, searching for the best locally-based content (Vermont, Montreal, New Hampshire and Upstate New York) to bring to Vermont PBS’s over the air broadcast and web streaming platforms. Stories that are about this community and made by community members. Stories that speak to what it’s like to live here, now.
Whether fiction-based or documentaries, Vermont PBS wants to give you a platform to express your ideas and access to a captive audience. We are looking for content of any length that is relevant, inspiring, educational, connective and high quality. Most importantly, contemporary stories about life – personal, community-based or views about the rest of the world.
If you are interested in broadcast distribution of your content on Vermont PBS, please scroll down to review our Integrity Policy, and Limitations on Broadcast Content, then complete our Local Content Submission Form. Please contact us with any questions or for more information.
Mary Albee, Local Programming & Archive Manager
firstname.lastname@example.org | 802-654-3670
Limitations on Broadcast Content
Vermont PBS is a curator of content, but is required to comply with U.S. laws and rules of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) when selecting content to broadcast. VermontPBS reserves the right to interpret standards and select content at its discretion. When submitting content, we ask that you alert us to content that may fall within the categories of Obscene, Indecent, or Profane – which may or may not impact whether content may be broadcast depending on context and time of day of broadcast.
An Overview of The Law
What are the statutes and rules regarding the broadcast of obscene, indecent, and profane programming? Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1464, prohibits the utterance of any obscene, indecent or profane language by means of radio/broadcast communication. Consistent with a subsequent statute and court case, the Commission's rules prohibit the broadcast of indecent material during the period of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. FCC decisions also prohibit the broadcast of profane material between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Civil enforcement of these requirements rests with the FCC, and is an important part of the FCC's overall responsibilities. At the same time, the FCC must be mindful of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 326 of the Communications Act, which prohibit the FCC from censoring program material, or interfering with broadcasters' free speech rights.
What makes material obscene? Obscene speech is not protected by the First Amendment and broadcasters are prohibited, by statute and regulation, from airing obscene programming at any time. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, to be obscene, material must meet a three-prong test: (1) an average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest (i.e., material having a tendency to excite lustful thoughts); (2) the material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law; and (3) the material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. The Supreme Court has indicated that this test is designed to cover hard-core pornography.
What makes material indecent? Indecent material contains sexual or excretory material that does not rise to the level of obscenity. For this reason, the courts have held that indecent material is protected by the First Amendment and cannot be banned entirely. It may, however, be restricted to avoid its broadcast during times of the day when there is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience. The FCC has determined, with the approval of the courts, that there is a reasonable risk that children will be in the audience from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., local time. Therefore, the FCC prohibits station licensees from broadcasting indecent material during that period.
Material is indecent if, in context, it depicts or describes sexual or excretory organs or activities in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium. In each case, the FCC must determine whether the material describes or depicts sexual or excretory organs or activities and, if so, whether the material is patently offensive.
In the assessment of whether material is patently offensive, context is critical. The FCC looks at three primary factors when analyzing broadcast material: (1) whether the description or depiction is explicit or graphic; (2) whether the material dwells on or repeats at length descriptions or depictions of sexual or excretory organs; and (3) whether the material appears to pander or is used to titillate or shock. No single factor is determinative. The FCC weighs and balances these factors because each case presents its own mix of these, and possibly other, factors.
What makes material profane? Profane language includes those words that are so highly offensive that their mere utterance in the context presented may, in legal terms, amount to a nuisance. In its Golden Globe Awards Order the FCC warned broadcasters that, depending on the context, it would consider the F-Word and those words (or variants thereof) that are as highly offensive as the F-Word to be profane language that cannot be broadcast between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
What is the safe harbor? The safe harbor refers to the time period between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., local time. During this time period, a station may air indecent and/or profane material. In contrast, there is no safe harbor for the broadcast of obscene material. Obscene material is entitled to no First Amendment protection, and may not be broadcast at any time.
Are there certain words that are always unlawful? No. Offensive words may be profane and/or indecent depending on the context. In the Golden Globe Awards Order, the FCC stated that it would address the legality of broadcast language on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the context presented, use of the F-Word or other words as highly offensive as the F-Word may be both indecent and profane, if aired between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Code of Integrity
Public broadcasters have adopted shared principles to strengthen the trust and integrity that communities expect of valued public service institutions.
Public media organizations contribute to a strong civil society and active community life, provide access to knowledge and culture, extend education, and offer varied viewpoints and sensibilities.
The freedom of public media professionals to make editorial decisions without undue influence is essential. It is rooted in America's commitment to free speech and a free press. It is reflected in the unique and critical media roles that federal, state, and local leaders have encouraged and respected across the years. It is affirmed by the courts.
Trust is equally fundamental. Public media organizations create and reinforce trust through rigorous, voluntary standards for the integrity of programming and services, fundraising, community interactions, and organizational governance.
These standards of integrity apply to all the content public media organizations produce and present, regardless of subject matter, including news, science, history, information, music, arts, and culture. These standards apply across all public media channels and platforms - broadcasting, online, social media, print, media devices, and in-person events.
Public media, individually and collectively:
- Contribute to communities' civic, educational, and cultural life by presenting a range of ideas and cultures and offering a robust forum for discussion and debate.
- Commit to accuracy and integrity in the pursuit of facts about events, issues, and important matters that affect communities and people's lives.
- Pursue fairness and responsiveness in content and services, with particular attention to reflecting diversity of demography, culture, and beliefs.
- Aim for transparency in news gathering, reporting, and other content creation and share the reasons for important editorial and programming choices.
- Protect the editorial process from the fact and appearance of undue influence, exercising care in seeking and accepting funds and setting careful boundaries between contributors and content creators.
- Encourage understanding of fundraising operations and practices, acknowledge program sponsors, and disclose content-related terms of sponsor support.
- Maintain respectful and accountable relationships with individual and organizational contributors.
- Seek editorial partnerships and collaborations to enhance capacity, perspective, timeliness, and relevance and apply public media standards to these arrangements.
- Expect employees to uphold public media's integrity in their personal as well as their professional lives, understanding that employee actions, even when "off the clock," affect trust, integrity, credibility, and impartiality.
- Promote the common good, the public interest, and these commitments to integrity and trustworthiness in organizational governance, leadership, and management.
The Public Media Code of Integrity was developed by the Affinity Group Coalition and the Station Resource Group, collectively representing public television and radio stations and service organizations from across the country, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. September 2013