Skip to main content

FCC: CNN's F-Word Not Obscene

The Federal Communications Commission Friday dismissed various indecency and obscenity complaints against Cable News Network.

The complaints stemmed from a botched celebration at the Democratic National Convention during which CNN caught an f-word from one of the "support staff."

Reports at the time had producer Don Mischer letting loose with an f-word punctuated outburst when balloons failed to drop at the close of presidential nominee John Kerry’s acceptance speech.

The FCC dismissed the indecency complaint with the reminder that it does not have authority over cable indecency, though it added that subscribers have the legal right to request that  their cable system block unwanted channels, as well as to request their own "lock box" with which they can selectively block channels.

As to obscenity, it was a pretty easy call there, too.

The FCC cited language the three-part Miller test for obscenity, and saying: "Nothing in the record indicates that CNN’s broadcast coverage of the DNC depicts the kind of “hard core pornography” covered by Miller, or that, as a whole, it appeals to the prurient interest or lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value." 

Whether that same f-word would have been indecent on broadcast TV remains unknown, since the FCC was simply addressing obscenity. Bono's fleeting, unscripted adjective on the Golden Globes was, the FCC has concluded, but the scripted f-words from the soldiers Saving Private Ryan weren't.