FCC Blows Off Enforcing Indecency Fine
March 24, 2008 at 10:36 AM (PT)
While preparing to take on FOX TV in THE SUPREME COURT over "fleeting expletives," the FCC allowed an indecency violation to expire without getting a penny from the offender, VARIETY reports. The FCC blamed its lack of follow-through to recent Court decisions that "created confusion over how the agency can enforce its indecency rules."
In MARCH, 2006, the FCC issued a $27,500 fine FOX station KTVI/ST. LOUIS for a 2003 airing of the movie "The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper," which contained numerous instances of the S-bomb. In fact, it was a veritable smorgasbord of excretory variations, be it "bull...," "holy..." and even "owl..." One could accurately surmise that the movie was full of it.
For an indecency ruling, this was virtually a slam-dunk case. The movie was obviously pre-recorded; it featured multiple scripted expletives and it aired on a SATURDAY afternoon when children were likely to be in the viewing audience. Nevertheless, the FCC never issued a forfeiture notice and because the incident aired on MARCH 15th, 2003, the statute of limitations expired nine days ago, rendering any enforcement moot.
FCC spokeswoman MARY DIAMOND blamed a 2007 ruling last year by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals that tossed out a new commission policy on indecency. "Among the many harmful parts of the 2nd Circuit decision in the FOX case was its suggestion that expletives could be broadcast so long as they were used in what that court called a ‘nonliteral fashion,’" DIAMOND said. "Given the uncertainty created by that aspect of the 2nd Circuit's decision, the commission decided not to go forward at this time with the forfeiture proceeding involving ‘The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper.’"
Veteran communications attorney JOHN CRIGLER told VARIETY that the FCC is simply overloaded with complaints. "The FCC has been trying to get companies to toll (deadlines) and agree to extend" the five-year statute of limitations, he said.
The FCC approached FOX about such a tolling agreement. To put it aptly, FOX told the FCC to do the equivalent of pounding sand -- in other words, it declined.