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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 indecency standards.

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," he said.

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 said.

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.

Contact 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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