About the FCC Guidelines....
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Last June the lawyer from Pacifica (John Crigler) gave a talk to the staff at KPFT and passed out a flyer he had put together about the new FCC guidelines. While not an official document of any sort, it does clarify to some extent what we in radio programming have to contend with. I'm sharing selective paragraphs from the flyer.
In 1987, the FCC replaced its "seven dirty words" indecency standard with a "generic" definition of indecency. Since then the Commission has levied indecency fines mounting to millions of dollars. Recent fines have been as high as $755,000, and pending legislation could push the maximum fine to $3 million or more.
Hours of Enforcement:
What Does the FCC
Consider To Be "Indecent"?
What Does That Mean?
The second factor is whether the material dwells on or repeats sexual or excretory matters at length. This factor has been virtually eliminated by the FCC's ruling that Bono's use of the "F" word during the Golden Globes awards was actionably indecent, even though the word was used only in "isolated" and "fleeting" circumstances.
The third factor is whether the material panders, titillates or is used for shock value.
It is not necessary that material satisfy all three factors. For example, material that has an "unmistakably sexual" meaning may be indecent even if it is not titillating or pandering in nature.
How Do I Know
If Material Is "Offensive"?
popular songs which contain repeated references to sex or sexual organs (e.g., "I Want To Be A Homosexual," "Penis Envy," "Walk With An Erection," "Erotic City," "Jet Boy Jet Girl," "Makin' Bacon");
DJ banter concerning tabloid sex scandals (e.g., Vanessa Williams' photographs in Penthouse and a honeymooner whose testicle was caught in a hot tub drain);
discussions between DJs and callers concerning intimate sexual questions (e.g., "What makes your hiney parts tingle?"; "What's the grossest thing you ever put in your mouth?");
dirty jokes or puns ("Liberace was great on the piano but sucked on the organ");
non-clinical references to gay or lesbian sex, masturbation, penis or breast size, sodomy, erections, orgasms, etc; description or simulation of various sexual acts;
and the seven dirty words (shit, fuck, piss, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, tits).
References to oral or non-heterosexual sex are typically found to be "patently offensive." The FCC does not ask for any evidence on the issue of whether material is "offensive." In one instance, however, it reversed a decision that the hip-hop song, "Your Revolution," was indecent, based, in part, on evidence that the performer, Sarah Jones, was invited to perform the song in high schools and junior highs.
The flyer went on for several more pages, but the highlights above should be a good introduction.