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FCC Dismisses F-Word Complaint

The Federal Communications Commission has quietly dismissed an indecency complaint against noncommercial WMNF(FM) Tampa, Fla.

The complaint had charged the station with broadcasting an F-word, but WMNF was airing a live gospel program at the time of the alleged offense--7:30 on a Sunday morning. Combined with the lack of documentation, that fact was enough reasonable doubt for the FCC's indecency enforcers.

According to a draft copy of the Dec. 21 dismissal obtained by B&C, the complainant had charged that his wife, while surfing the dial, heard the phrase "[w]hatever we use to f--k our brains."

The FCC concluded that since there was no tape of the complaint and since station records showed it was indeed airing a gospel program at the time, "there [was] an insufficient factual basis to pursue this investigation."

The FCC did not say, and doesn't have to say, whether it would have concluded the F-word indecent in this case had it found substantiation for the claim.

First Amendment attorneys taking aim at the FCC's crackdown on cussing are waiting eagerly for the FCC's decision on a complaint about ABC's uncut airing of Saving Private Ryan. If, as expected, the commission rules those F-words were not actionable, that could boost the challenge of its earlier finding that singer Bono's fleeting adjectival F-word was indecent.

Some argue that the excited Irish singer's expression of delight at winning an award is just as contextually appropriate as a soldier's frustration in the midst of battle.