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FCC Clears CNN on Use of ‘F-Word’

Uttering the “F-word” on Cable News Network does not violate broadcast-indecency rules because cable operators and programmers are not subject to those rules, the Federal Communications Commission ruled Friday.

The FCC said it received complaints that during the balloon drop at last year’s Democratic National Convention, CNN carried the voice of a party support-staff member who was upset that the balloons were not falling properly.

Specifically, the complaints alleged that the staff member stated, “God damn it … what the f___ are you guys doing up there?”

In dismissing the complaints, the FCC said the agency is authorized to regulate indecency on broadcast TV and radio, but not on subscription services, such as cable, satellite TV and satellite radio.

The complaints also alleged that CNN violated federal obscenity laws. Unlike indecent content, obscenity on cable or broadcast is not protected by the First Amendment.

The FCC said the use of the F-word on CNN did not meet the Supreme Court’s three-part criteria for determining obscenity. Since that test is designed to isolate “hard-core pornography” from protected First Amendment speech, CNN’s broadcast was not obscene, the agency said.

Three weeks ago, the FCC issued an identical ruling in connection with complaints about graphic episodes of FX show Nip/Tuck.