Testing the principles. The convicted Australian drug smugglers facing the death penalty in a Bali jail should be hoping that Australian politicians really do have a principled objection to the death penalty and that they display it with some vigorous lobbying against the execution of the three Islamic militants convicted over the 2002 Bali bombings. The Indonesian Attorney General Hendarman Supandji, as we mentioned in this morning’s Crikey Breakfast wrap, said yesterday he expects the execution to take place before the fasting month which this year runs from 2nd of September to 1st of October. Hendarman said that with the rejection of the three’s final appeals by the Supreme Court, their execution for the attacks that killed 202 people, legally could be held because they have decided not to ask for appeal to the President for clemency — their only remaining way to avoid the death sentence. The three convicts have said they will not do this because such a request requires an admission of wrongdoing. “It means that justice process has finished so the execution can legally take place,” Supandji said. Presumably the Australian drug smugglers will be prepared to plead for their lives when their time for the firing squad comes but their chances of success will be strengthened if entreaties by the Australian Government on their behalf are seen as a principled objection to the death penalty per se. That means putting the case strongly to the Indonesian Government for the lives of Ali Ghufron, Imam Samudra and Amrozi Nurhasyim to be spared.

Labor firmly favoured up north . The opening Crikey Election Indicator for the Northern Territory has the Labor Government a firm favourite to be returned to office on 9 August. With none of the exchanges yet operating on the election called yesterday, we have used the prices from Centrebet and Sportingbet to calculate Labor as a 78% probability of winning to the Country Liberal Party’s 22%.

Optimistically patting the dog . The Liberal Party candidate who fearlessly engenders goodwill by giving my American bulldogs a pat every morning at the local coffee shop is in an optimistic mood about the chances of the Labor Party losing majority government status when the Australian Capital Territory goes to the polls in October. He is surprised at the civility with which he is being greeted while door knocking in what is normally a very strong pro-Labor town. The style of Chief Minister John Stanhope, he says, is the biggest thing going for non-Labor candidates like him.

Keeping abreast of the case . In Australia politicians have had problems with n-ked children. In the United States the longest running political morality play has been about br-asts; or, to be more precise, one br-ast of the singer Janet Jackson. You’ll remember that the regulators at the Federal Communications Commission were affronted by this display of lewdness at the Super bowl. CBS was fined $550,000 for violating FCC indecency standards. CBS objected and this week the Philadelphia-based Federal Appeals Court for the Third Circuit ruled that the FCC was wrong. The three justices found the FCC “arbitrary and capricious”. The court also agreed with the CBS lawyers’ contention that it was unconstitutional to hold CBS liable for the actions of independent contractors — Jackson and Justin Timberlake — who did something CBS was unaware beforehand was going to happen. Furthermore, the indecency provision as implemented by the FCC risked “chilling constitutionally protected speech,” the court said in its opinion.

The Center for Creative Voices in Media, whose Board of Advisors include Warren Beatty, Steven Bochco, Peggy Charren, Blake Edwards, Tom Fontana, and Sissy Spacek, applauded the decision. It commented:

As both the Third Circuit in this case and the Second Circuit in last year’s Fox v. FCC case (Cher and Nicole Ritchie “fleeting expletives”) found, overly broad FCC decisions on what constitutes “indecency” that arbitrarily overturn decades of Commission precedent put creative, challenging, controversial, non-homogenized broadcast television programming at risk.

In many cases, the very kinds of television programs that parents want their children to watch — high quality documentaries, histories, and dramas — have been impacted. Thus, the chilling effect of these now-overturned Commission decisions harmed not only media artists, but the American public. We documented this chilling effect in our report, Big Chill: How the FCC’s Indecency Decisions Stifle Free Expression, Threaten Quality Television, and Harm America’s Children … We’re pleased two Courts of Appeal have now agreed.

We hope and expect that the U.S. Supreme Court will also agree when it hears the government’s appeal of its loss in Fox v. FCC this fall.