background image
48
Philadelphia radio station for excrement and sexual references contained in a
interview with Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia .
The landmark court case which defined the FCC's current standards and guide-
lines was FCC v Pacifica , in 1975. The ruling from this case determined that inde-
cent programming could not be aired when it might be accessible by children,
known as the "safe harbor" hours , currently 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. The FCC
worked for the next 26 years under a definition of indecency that forbade mate-
rial depicting sexual activities or excretory organs in a manner considered patent-
ly offensive by contemporary community standards.
In the months before September 11
th
, the FCC had undertaken a crusade against
indecency unparallel in its history. This campaign originated in 1999, when the
FCC created an Enforcement Bureau to streamline and centralize complaints
about broadcast indecency. Before this time, indecency complaints were handled
along with all the other commission business, often considered a minor function
at the agency. In fact, before the Enforcement Bureau was founded, there was little
attention paid to indecency enforcement. So little, in fact, that many bureau offi-
cials felt the FCC was slowly working itself out of the content regulation business
and solely focusing on the oversight of the telecommunications business. Under
the Enforcement Bureau , there was a several stage process before a broadcaster
could be fined. First, the bureau would complete an "indecency analysis" that
considers whether the material is explicit, repeated or dwelled upon at length,
and if it is pandering, titillating, or shocking.
In March 2001, the FCC issued a clarification of its regulations regarding inde-
cency on radio . Immediately afterwards, the agency's biggest target appeared to
be stations airing hip-hop music. Several rap stations from across the country,
including broadcasters in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, New York, Florida, and
Wisconsin were fined for playing music with profanity during the safe harbor
hours. KKMG in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was fined for playing an edited,
profanity free version of Eminem 's "The Real Slim Shady" with the FCC arguing
that even though the song had bleeps over certain words, listeners could still
deduce what the covered word was.
Citing the March clarification, the FCC expanded restrictions to include any
use of innuendo or double-entendre to describe "sexual or excretory" activities.
The problem with this empowered literalism is that it's difficult to name any song
that doesn't contain at least one potential sexual innuendo.
In the summer of 2003, a DJ at KBOO in Portland, Oregon, played a song by
poet Sarah Jones and DJ Vadim entitled "Your Revolution ." The song, a send-up
of the Gil Scott-Heron classic "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" here it's