FCC Unveils Reasoning in Dismissal of Indecency Complaints

Jan 25, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Use of such common euphemisms for the male sexual organ as “dick” on prime-time television may not run afoul of Federal Communications Commission indecency regulations, depending on the context of the reference. That was one of the major conclusions in two FCC orders Monday dismissing 36 indecency complaints from the watchdog Parents Television Council complaining about off-color references on TV shows. “In context and as used in the complained of broadcasts, these were epithets intended to denigrate or criticize their subjects,” said the FCC. “Their use in this context was not sufficiently explicit or graphic and/or sustained to be patently offensive.”

The FCC also warned that use of the same words could raise indecency concerns if they are used in a context that makes their use patently offensive. “Their use here was not patently offensive and therefore not indecent,” the FCC said.

The FCC also said that the fleeting uses of additional words cited in the complaints-including penis, testicle, vaginal, ass, bitch, hell, damn, orgasm, nipples, breast, can, pissed, crap and bastard-did not constitute indecencies in the context with which they were used in the prime-time programs.

In a statement, the PTC accused the FCC of abandoning its public interest responsibility by “lumping all 36 complaints into one great mish-mash of imprecision.”