FCC Ruling Could Allow
Increased Profanity on Television
By Belinda S. Ayers
Profanity isn't just for R-rated movies anymore. In the
right context, it is permissible on America's airwaves anytime and for
any audience, including children. That's the impression left by a recent
ruling of the Federal Communications Commission.
Recently, the FCC rejected more than 200 complaints they received
regarding the use of the "f-word" by U2's lead singer Bono
during the 2003 Golden Globe Awards broadcast. The FCC ruled that
the performer's use of the expletive did not violate the commission's
In the ruling
David Solomon, Chief of the Enforcement Bureau of the FCC, said, "The
word [f******] may be crude and offensive, but in the context presented
here, did not describe sexual or excretory organs or activities"--something
which is required for a statement to be in violation of the Commission's
standard for indecency.
"Rather," Solomon said, "the performer used the word
[f******] as an adjective or expletive to emphasize an exclamation."
In the past, Solomon said, the FCC has ruled that "fleeting and
isolated remarks of this nature do not warrant Commission action."
The Commission's lack of action has angered citizens who are turning
to their local politicians for help.
"I have received hundreds of e-mails from citizens of Southeast
Alabama who are understandably outraged by the FCC's action,"
said Representative Terry Everett. "Clearly, it sets the precedent
for the use of foul language on any radio and television channel at
any hour of the day and night."
Thirty-one other members of Congress agreed in a letter
they sent to the FCC claiming the ruling "sends a poor message
to the entertainment industry about the FCC's willingness to enforce
standards for broadcast indecency."
Congressman Chip Pickering, of Mississippi, also expressed his concern
about the FCC's decision.
"As a father of five, I am wary of enjoying an evening before
the television with my children or of listening to the radio in the
car with my kids for fear of being inundated with indecent or profane
language," Pickering wrote in a letter to the FCC.
"That cannot and should not be what Americans expect when watching
television or listening to the radio," Pickering said. "It
is time for the FCC to apply simple, ordinary common sense to such
situations in the interest of the American public."
Although they declined to comment on the specifics of the ruling,
as it is pending review by the full Commission, at least two of the
FCC's five commissioners seem to agree. Their responses came as a
result of an inquiry from the
Parents Television Council, a media watch group that sought an
explanation from the FCC's commissioners following the ruling.
In his response
to the PTC, Commissioner Kevin Martin stated his concern about the
FCC's overall lack of enforcement pertaining to instances of indecency
in broadcasts. "I am concerned that the Commission is not doing
all it should in this area. We may be interpreting the statute too
narrowly. We also may need to enforce our rules more stringently,"
Martin also said, "I am not sure that a word otherwise considered
indecent becomes acceptable merely because it is used as an adjective."
Commissioner Michael Copps agreed
in his response to the PTC saying he would question any approach that
considers an otherwise profane word to be indecent "if it is
used as 'only' an adjective or expletive."
Copps echoed Martin's sentiment that the FCC is not effectively enforcing
the nation's indecency statutes.
"A few months ago, I gave the FCC a grade of "F" for the job it has
failed to do in enforcing the statutes that exist to curb indecency,"
he said. "When only a tiny minority of complaints at the Commission
result in any action at all, it is time to take a hard look at why
so many instances of indecency are falling through the cracks
The Commissioner's Chairman Michael Powell was more guarded in his
response to the PTC. He noted that when considering complaints
of indecency the FCC must be careful to protect the freedom of speech
granted by the First Amendment.
"The Commission is required to acknowledge that even repulsive
speech is accorded protection under the First Amendment," Powell
However, the chairman said he found "use of the 'F word' on
programming accessible to children reprehensible."
Powell said he shared the concerns of the PTC to protect the airwaves
from indecent programming, but he urged the media to be careful in
their reports about the ruling. "The Enforcement Bureau's decision
is limited to its facts. It should in no way be read to condone or
endorse profanity," Powell said.
Many viewers would disagree. The FCC's unwillingness to take action
against indecent programming is leading America down a slippery slope.
We are in the battle for the heart and sould of our nation. Now is
the time for Christians to take action to clean up America's airwaves.
Congress and express your concerns with the recent FCC ruling.
Contact the FCC
and let them know you do not want profanity and obscene material allowed
in television programming.
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