musicNEWS: U2's Bono Backed By Broadcasters in FCC Indecency Crackdown

04-21-04 Keavin
Update: U2 frontman Bono has a lot of heavy weights going to bat for him against the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) over his 2003 swearing incident during a live broadcast. A coalition of broadcasters, artist rights groups and media heavyweights filed a petition with the FCC on Monday asking the regulators to reconsider a recent profanity ruling over the Bono incident that many consider the first in the FCC’s efforts to crackdown on indecency since the Janet Jackson breast bearing at the Super Bowl in January. 

The coalition consisting of over 20 signatures to the petition, warn that the recent crackdown were already threatening free speech on TV and radio. They also feel that the FCC has overstepped their constitutional authority. Viacom Inc., Fox Entertainment Group, and the Screen Actors' Guild were among those that signed the petition that protests the FCC’s finding in March that NBC affiliate television stations had violated a federal profanity law during a live broadcast of the Golden Globe awards in 2003, when U2 frontman Bono blurted out the words “f***ing brilliant” from the stage. The FCC had previous ruled, prior to Nipple-gate, that it was in inadvertent slip of the tongue and did not violate the law. 

The FCC has recently proposed stiffer penalties for broadcast indecency including higher fines and revoking broadcast licenses for repeated offenses. 

If the FCC dismissed the request of the petitioners, the next step is to take the issue to court. 

Update 4/21: FCC chairman Michael Powell told a conference of the National Association of Broadcasters on Tuesday that he does not support a new bill that would revoke a station’s license following a third indecency violation. 

"I don't think you should reduce something as facile and vague as indecency to clear cause-and-effect consequences," Michael Powell said. "I don't like the idea that we could trip into license revocation."

Powell also addressed concerns that the government may be going overboard in enacting new rules for indecency. "I think the government should be exceedingly conservative about any regulation of content for anyone," he said. "I don't generally support the extension of content rules unless Congress supports a statement asking us to do so". 

Powell was careful to point out that it is the current laws on the books that are being used and warned against those that wish to have the government step in further to define indecency. "The indecency provision that is being administered today is the same one that's been around for decades," Powell said. "You do not want the government to write a red book of what you can say and not say".

He pointed out the Supreme Court has ruled on the free speech implications of FCC rules and sanctioned the limiting of sexual content and offensive language on the public airwaves. 

"I would like to see the industry step up and put the commission on the sidelines," added Commissioner Michael Copps. "Until that time, the FCC has an obligation to enforce and use all the tools we have."



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