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FCC Golden Globes Complaint Review Is Pro Forma

An FCC spokeswoman confirmed Thursday that the FCC is reviewing indecency complaints against NBC's broadcast last weekend of the Golden Globe awards, but a source says that is not a suggestion it has concluded the complaints have any merit.

The FCC says it routinely reviews all complaints to determine whether they rise to the level of FCC action.

It may have been pro forma, but the complaints immediately reminded TV regulation watchers of the Golden Globes complaint against Bono that helped spur the FCC to change/clarify its policy on fleeting indecencies. That, in turn, spurred the crackdown on shows like NYPD Blue and Without a Trace and resulted in two courts slamming the commission for being arbitrary and capricious. Its indecency enforcement regime is effectively in limbo until the government's Supreme Court challenge to the lower courts' smackdown is resolved.

In Bono's case, it was an adjectival F-word celebrating his award victory. Parents Television Council complained earlier this week about the general vulgarity of performers, and a specific middle-finger salute, but did not put out a call for action, said a PTC spokeswoman adding that a few complaints were filed via its Web site, with a majority coming directly to the FCC. In fact, PTC gave NBC a shout-out for "Elimiating the most graphic profanity," including editing a middle finger salute out of a West Coast feed.

But it also took issue with the TV-PG rating. "NBC should either demand a promise of respect from the program’s performers or they should hold the program out honestly as being adult entertainment," said PTC.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.