Editorial: A decent definition of indecency?

Apr 16, 2001  •  Post A Comment

For journalists, nothing is more sacred than the First Amendment and its free speech protection. And if you really believe in the First Amendment, you have to defend speech that you might not cotton to.
We were reminded of this recently when the Federal Communications Commission, after a delay of six years, implemented guidelines about the broadcasting of indecent speech.
Indecent speech, as defined in 1978 by the FCC, is “Language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory activities or organs.”
Between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., the broadcasting of indecent speech has been given what is known as a safe harbor, and it can be aired. But from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., the broadcasting of indecent speech can be regulated.
In the guidelines just issued, a newscaster’s comment, “Oops, fucked that one up,” is not indecent, since it was accidental and a one-time-only occurrence.
However, the following discussion on Howard Stern’s radio show was considered indecent: “Have you even had sex with an animal? Well, don’t knock it. I was sodomized by Lamb Chop.”

Far more troubling, we think, is the hate talk preached by too many Stern wannabes.
Take, for example, Tom Leykis, a popular “shock jock” syndicated by Westwood One to more than 50 cities.
Heard on many stations beginning at 3 in the afternoon, on a recent show he was discussing who might have seen the Oscar-winning movie “Shakespeare in Love.” Mr. Leykis said, in all seriousness, that the only members of the male gender who saw the film voluntarily were either homosexual or beaten into submission by their wives or girlfriends. Real men, Mr. Leykis insisted, would not have gone to see the film.
So, need we wonder why when we read about the next gay boy or man who is beaten up or killed?
Unfortunately, it’s hate talk that’s the real indecency, and the FCC can’t do anything about that. It’s a situation only programmers can fix.