"The FCC consciously assumed the role of a national arbiter of good taste, and its decision already is exerting a chilling effect."
——Bob Corn-Revere, attorney on recent FCC rulings


Viacom, Fox, RadioOne, Others Will Ask FCC to Rescind Its Recent Decision Over F-World
It’s about friggin’ time.

After kowtowing to Congress and the FCC for everyone from Janet Jackson and Bono to Howard Stern and Bubba the Love Sponge, at least some of the country’s media companies have decided they’re not gonna take it anymore.

Viacom, Fox, RadioOne, Citadel, Beasley and Intercom are joining with activists like People for the American Way and Media Access Project to ask the FCC to overturn its recent decision that the F-word, and any other word the commissioners don't like, can be punished with major fines or license revocations.

Neither NBC, whose broadcast of a Bono expletive on the Golden Globes prompted the FCC decision, nor ABC had joined the fight at presstime. NBC was expected to file a separate petition Monday. ABC is not planning to participate.

Others asking the FCC to back down include performers Penn & Teller and Margaret Cho.

If the FCC doesn't strike the Bono ruling, the protestors plan to file an appeal in federal court.

The resulting legal battle could land any anti-indecency legislation in the Supreme Court, where at least one lawyer, Bob Corn-Revere, of Davis Wright Tremaine, believes firmly they will win.

"The commission's harsh new policy has sent shock waves through the broadcast industry and is forcing licensees to censor speech that unquestionably is protected by the First Amendment," he wrote in the petition. "The FCC consciously assumed the role of a national arbiter of good taste, and its decision already is exerting a chilling effect."

The chilling effect can already be seen in NBC's decision to blur an 80-year-old woman's exposed breast in a scene in ER; the implementation of delays during live shows; deletion of a hint of cleavage from a PBS documentary; firing of raunchy DJs; and even a public station's dismissal of longtime host Sandra Tsing-Loh.

Many have criticized the FCC’s inconsistency in defining indecency, and the lag time in petitioning for violations. Bono’s use of the "F"-word on NBC’s telecase Golden Globes in January 2003 wasn’t a problem until six months later, when the Parents’ Television Council protested the FCC’s ruling that the "fleeting" uternace didn’t warrant punishment.

Corn-Revere also points out that FCC decisions saying euphemisms may also be indecent raise the question of whether "friggin’" or "freakin’" or "effin" might be off-limits as well.

Viacom President Mel Karmazin has so far refused to pronounce any content indecent, suggesting that was a matter for the company’s lawyers to determine, and alone among his broadcast bretheren, has stated a willingness to challenge the definition of indecency in the courts.