Congress Ponders Seven Unspeakable Words

Gretchen Gallen
WASHINTON, D.C. – On the heels of a recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling letting rock singer Bono off the hook for saying a profane word at the 2003 Golden Globe Awards, a miffed congressional committee is shopping around a bill in the House of Representatives that would permanently ban seven words over the nation's airwaves.

The bill is reportedly a reaction to Congress's annoyance with the FCC after it decided that Bono's use of the f-word was not indecent because it was used as an adjective. However last week, the FCC reversed its ruling under intense pressure from family advocacy groups.

Titled the Clean Airwaves Act and drafted by Reps. Doug Ose of California and Lamar Smith of Texas, the bill would make it a criminal offense to say any of the seven words, regardless of the context, over the public airwaves.

Those words include words like `shit', `piss', `fuck', `cunt', `asshole', and the phrases `cock sucker', `mother fucker', and `ass hole.'

According to the bill's authors, those words also include compound use (including hyphenated compounds) and other grammatical forms of such words and phrases (including verb, adjective, gerund, participle, and infinitive forms)

The FCC was granted the right to regulate indecent broadcasts in a 1978 Supreme Court decision. But Congress has been an open critic of the FCC's perceived laxness prior to the Janet Jackson Super Bowl fiasco when the issue of indecency over the airwaves became part of a nationwide furor. Members of Congress have said that if the FCC had been stricter in regulating the use of aired profanity, other incidents could have been avoided.

Congress is joined in its criticism of the FCC by numerous advocacy groups, including Focus on the Family, which said in a statement recently that the FCC has ignored its mandate to protect Americans from broadcast indecency and that the FCC has been irresponsible in maintaining government standards for broadcast media.

To date, celebrities and public figures that have been condemned by the FCC or the companies that could be subject to FCC fines include Howard Stern, Janet Jackson, Sandra Tsing Loh, Nicole Richie, and Todd Clem, also known as Bubba the Love Sponge, to name just a few.