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"Golden Globe" swearing incident not indecent, FCC finds

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Broadcasting    

“Golden Globe” swearing incident not indecent, FCC finds

  • The Federal Communications Commission ruled last week that airing expletives when used in a certain context does not violate indecency broadcast regulations.

Oct. 10, 2003 — Airing the “f-word” is all right in certain situations, the FCC Enforcement Bureau said last week in response to a complaint from the Parents Television Council.

FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief David H. Solomon released the commission’s ruling Oct. 3, saying an expletive “may be crude and offensive, but, in the context presented here, did not describe sexual or excretory organs or activities.” In determining broadcast indecency, the FCC considers context and whether an “average listener” would find the material offensive.

The Parents Television Council filed an indecency complaint with the FCC following the January 2003 “Golden Globe” awards show. During the ceremony, aired live on NBC, singer Bono of the rock band U2 won the award for “Best Original Song” for his work on the movie “Gangs of New York.” In his acceptance speech, Bono told the crowd, “this is really, really fucking brilliant.”

Calling the FCC a “toothless lion,” Lara Mahaney, director of corporate and entertainment affairs for the Parents Television Council, said her organization was not shocked by the commission’s ruling.

“They don’t take indecency seriously,” said Mahaney, in an Oct. 7 AP story, “and that’s why you see it proliferating on the broadcast airwaves.”

The Parents Television Council, based in Los Angeles, works to promote “socially responsible” programming.

On Oct. 2, the FCC released two other decisions citing stations in violation of indecency standards. Infinity Broadcasting and Clear Channel were fined $357,500 and $55,000, respectively, for airing indecent content. The larger fine was directed at the “Opie and Anthony Show” for encouraging couples to have sex in “risky locations” throughout New York City, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral. According to the FCC’s indecency definition, these two cases were distinct from Bono’s remark because they dwelled on sexual activities.


© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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