Media Law Prof Blog

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Louisiana State Univ.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

FCC Hands Down Its Rulings in Indecency Complaints

The Federal Communications Commission has refused to rule that a word in general, and vulgar, use as an alternative for the male sexual organ was indecent when spoken by characters on episodes of "Dawson's Creek," or when alluded to on an episode of "Friends." It also ruled that an episode of "King of the Hill", a cartoon series, did not reach a level of indecency when it depicted--briefly--a boy entering a shower after removing his towel. In FCC 04-279 and FCC 04-280, the FCC dismissed more than 30 complaints involving indecent language on network TV  that the Parents Television Council has filed since 2001. Both Commissioner Martin and Commissioner Copps approved in part and dissented in part; Commissioner Martin will issue a statement at a later date. Commissioner Copps issued a statement today, charging that the FCC had merely lumped together these complaints, failing to analyze them carefully or to provide any meaningful guidance for viewers or for broadcasters attempting to determine when the FCC might hold them accountable for indecent or patently offensive language. Perhaps in an attempt to ward off criticism, Fox, which drew a $1.2 million fine from the agency for its show "Married by America", has decided to rename its cable channel sport talk show "Best Damn Sports Show Period" "Best Darn Super Bowl Road Show Period." "Married by America" garnered a reported 90 complaints (written by 23 people) about its content. However, blogger Jeff Jarvis reported that most of those complaints seem to have come on form letters generated by the Parents Television Council.  Frank Ahrens discusses the FCC rulings in an article in the Washington Post today at page E01. See Frank Ahrens, "FCC Dismisses 36 Indecency Complaints as Not "Patently Offensive".

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