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FCC Fines Only Raise More Questions



Imagine a world where calling someone a d---head is considered less offensive than using the word shit in casual conversation.

Or where a detailed description of the slang term "tossing salad" (oral/anal sex, as described on Oprah Winfrey's talk show) is considered less explicit than a scene in which a character jumpes on a river raft and looses the s-word, "Oh, shit."

Welcome to the wonderful universe of the Federal Communications Commission, where officials weighed such abstractions in coming up with the millions in fines they levied against broadcasters this week.

The FCC released detailed descriptions of the reasoning behind its many fines, allowing the public to see exactly why a teen group sex scene warranted a $3.6-million fine against dozens of CBS stations, while a scene depicting a husband fantasy of shooting his wife in the face did not.

The devil lies in the commission's very specific definition of indecency, in which depictions of sexual organs, the intent to titillate and the frequency of the references all play into the FCC's decision to fine or not.

So, WJAN-TV in Miami gets a$32,500 fine for a comedy skit in which a buxom model appears in a open-front dress with her nipples covered. To the FCC, even if sexual organs are covered by jewelry, blurring or pixillating, they are still fair game for fining. That meant WBDC-TV in Washington D.C. was stuck with a $27,500 fine for a sexy pool party depicted in the WB's reality series the Surreal Life 2, despite the fact that sexual organs were blurred.

The Commission found the words d--- and d---head "are not sufficiently vulgar, explicit or graphic descriptions of sexual organs or activities to support a finding of patent offensiveness." So no fine for KMBC in Dallas for airing the NYPD Blue episode which contained them.

But KCSM TV in San Mateo, Calif. got a $15,000 fine for airing scenes in the PBS documentary The Blues, in which interviewees said "What's your job? you stupid m

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:35pm]


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