Indecency vs. free speech

L. Bird pkeets at
Mon Apr 19 15:49:26 CDT 2004

Media Firms, Artists Back Bono Over FCC
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NEW YORK - Media companies, artists and civil rights activists joined 
together Monday to protest a ruling last month by the Federal Communications 
Commissions against the musician Bono of the group U2 for his use of an 
expletive on last year's Golden Globes broadcast.

CBS owner Viacom Inc. participated in the challenge, as did Fox 
Entertainment Group Inc., the American Civil Liberties Union (news - web 
sites), the Screen Actors Guild (news - web sites), the comedians Penn & 
Teller and Margaret Cho, and others.

Last month the FCC (news - web sites) commissioners overruled their staff 
and declared that Bono's use of an expletive while accepting an award on 
television was indecent and profane. However, they did not impose a fine 
since they had never before said that practically any use of the expletive 
violated its rules.

That ruling came on the same day that the commission also announced three 
fines for what it deemed indecent radio broadcasts, two against Infinity 
Broadcasting, including one for a Howard Stern show, and one against a unit 
of Clear Channel Communications. Infinity is a subsidiary of Viacom.

The group said in a statement that the FCC's ruling against Bono was 
"chilling free speech across the broadcast landscape," prompting 
broadcasters to abandon live programming and to drop or heavily edit classic 
rock songs such as "Who Are You" by The Who and "Walk on the Wild Side" by 
Lou Reed.

FCC spokesman David Fiske declined to comment on the group's filing, which 
is called a petition for reconsideration.

The FCC did not immediately return a call for comment.

The incident in question occurred at last year's Golden Globe awards (news - 
web sites), when Bono said "This is really, really, f------ brilliant." The 
FCC received hundreds of complaints afterward.

In its ruling, the FCC rejected earlier findings that occasional use of that 
word was acceptable. The FCC's own enforcement bureau had ruled last October 
that Bono's remarks weren't obscene because they didn't describe a sexual 

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