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FCC To Ban 'Indecent' Words

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Jan 16, 2004 12:00 AM PST    Text size: 
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is fed up with the amount of profanity and 'indecency' coming over the airwaves. So fed up, that FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell addressed the issue this week at the National Press Club luncheon in Washington and called on Congress to impose stiffer penalties for radio and television broadcasters that air 'indecent' programming.

The push to impose stiffer regulations on profanity over the air generated initially from U2 lead singer Bono's acceptance speech at last year's Golden Globe Awards during which he used the "F***" word over NBC's airwaves.

At issue is also a string of uncensored profanities uttered by Nicole Richie on a Fox airing of "The Simple Life."

Powell has reportedly been pushing fellow FCC lawmakers to overturn an earlier ruling that the Bono mishaps was infact not an act of indecency. Although according to the Washington Post, NBC has not been fined for the incident, and many family advocacy groups feel that the FCC did not properly punish NBC for the oversight.

"I personally believe that the growing coarseness and use of such profanity at a time when we are very likely to know that children are watching is abhorrent and irresponsible," the FCC chairman was quoted as saying by the Washington Post. "And it is irresponsible of our programmers to continue to try to push the envelope of a reasonable set of policies that tries to legitimately balance the interest of the First Amendment with the need to protect our kids. And I think that line is beginning to be crossed."

As things stand, the FCC is able to fine broadcasters $27,500 on a per-violation basis, which Powell has stated is rarely implemented and doesn't deter most broadcasters.

According to the Washington Post, Powell is now asking Congress to increase the penalty for broadcasters "by at least tenfold."

A bill is currently being rushed to the House of Representatives by the House Energy and Commerce Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee that would ban a list of "profane" words from the airwaves.

The proposed bill, HR 3687, will officially ban words uttered on television and radio that relate to excrement, the sex act, urine, and parts of the body as being indecent. The broadcaster will also be subject to a fine, although the amount of the fine is still under discussion.

Cable television would be exempt from the ban.

According to reports, there is a hearing scheduled for Jan. 28.

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