Friday, June 09, 2006

A Radio Vet vents on new FCC fines.

The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a bill that would raise the maximum fine for indecent broadcasts to $325,000 - ten times more than the current limit of $32,500. The same bill passed in the Senate, and it will now be sent to President Bush, who will likely sign it into law. Once that happens, broadcasters will face a bigger hit to the bottom line should they let a curse word or overly realistic sex scene onto their airwaves between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.*

We can't inspect more than 5% of the containers entering U.S. ports, but by golly, we can keep America safe from curse words!

These fines are working out great. Notice how much more clean and decent the media's become in the last ten years? I think they should fine TV networks every time they put a new sitcom on the air about a fat guy and his hot wife.

Once again, I blame Janet Jackson's right breast.

What are the words we can't say? In my several decades speaking into a live broadcast microphone, I have never been presented a list of words I can't say. All I hear is, "You know what not to say!" I do? OK maybe I do - but what about those words that aren't so "black & white?" These are the "gray area" words - and where I'm most likely to slip up.

Here's how the lawyers sum it up. See if you can make anything of this.

To be obscene, material must meet a three-prong test:
The average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
The material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law; and
The material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.
Programming the FCC deems "obscene" usually depicts or describes raunchy sexual conduct.

Charges that a broadcast is "indecent" are much more common, and includes material that does not rise to the level of "obscene." To be "indecent," the FCC must find that:
The material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law; and
The broadcast is "patently offensive" as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium.
In determining whether material is "patently offensive," the FCC must consider the full context in which the material appeared, including the explicitness of the depiction or description, whether the material repeats the depiction or description of sexual or excretory organs or activities, and whether the material appears to pander or is used to titillate or shock.Community standards are not based on any particular geographic area, or any particular viewer or listener. The FCC instead attempts to weigh the sensibilities of the "average" broadcast viewer or listener.If the FCC finds complained-about material to be "indecent," and aired between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., it will find a violation.Examples of "indecent" material include sexually-charged descriptions or depictions of penises, testicles, breasts, and sex acts. The FCC's enforcement bureau found that when U2's Bono said "Fuck" recently during an awards show - it may have been crude and offensive, but did not meet the first part of the indecency test because it did not describe or depict sexual or excretory organs or activities. In its words, "the performer used Fuck as an adjective or expletive to emphasize an exclamation." It also found that it was a "fleeting and isolated remark" that did not warrant FCC action.


I once said testicles on the air. It was 1976 and almost fired. I didn't say testicles to shock. I said it to describe what I saw in a cosmetic surgery magazine that had been accidentally mailed to my house. No one laughed - especially when I followed the conversation with the song "Red Rubber Ball."

Just the other day I said "Pubic". Seemed like a "Gray area" word to me - but I was assured it was OK. I was talking about the trend of adult women to go bald - because they're tired of bikini waxing. I guess this fell into the "Oprah-esque" adult conversation that isn't being fined.

In my opinion, the trick is to have no-one complain to the F.C.C.. The Government won't investigate until there's a complaint. If the talent has bonded with their audience in an adult manner for a number of years, the audience accepts what the talent feels is appropriate. This is where I am in my career. I bet if my boob fell out - or I used bad language (intermittently- not daily) - no one would complain. No shit. I bet my ass on it.


Paul said...

Congress fails to understand that parents and individuals already have the TV ratings and content-blocking tools to make and enforce TV viewing decisions, both for their children and themselves. This makes government regulation of TV unnecessary and undesirable.

Check out TV Watch, at, for a common-sense voice of reason in this debate.

Anonymous said...

I agree Brian, I would never Narc you out to the FCC.

Briblog Blog said...

UPDATE! Facing fines - our company lawyers promise a detailed list of "words we can't say." Two, are already on the list. Fuck & Shit. OK, that's a start. I've never uttered either - on air - but now I've been warned. The FCC has ruled on "Jet Airliner" by Steve Miller. We now have to play the version that says "Funky kicks goin' down in the city" instaed of "Funky shit". And "Who Are You" by The Who - "Who the Fuck are You", is out completely. Classic Rock stations everywhere play these songs everyday. This is a mess that's getting messier.

Anonymous said...