FCC Nixes Naked Twister

The FCC has proposed another big indecency fine, this time against Entercom Communications for the 2002 broadcasts of a game of naked  Twister with strippers, on-air interviews with porn stars and the broadcast of a sexual act.

"We find that the broadcast of a game of “Naked Twister” by Entercom, during the hours between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., apparently violated the pertinent statutory and regulatory provisions restricting broadcast indecency," the FCC said Wednesday.

The commission found that indecent material had aired multiple times on the "Dare & Murphy Show" on KQRC-FM Leavenworth and KFH(AM) Wichita, both Kansas. The fine was the maximum $27,500 for each of eight broadcasts (four on each station).  At least two commissioners thought the fine should have been even higher.

"The program materials included repeated, graphic and explicit sexual descriptions that were pandering, titillating or used to shock the audience," said the FCC, which added that it was levying the maximum "because of the egregious nature of the violations and Entercom’s history of prior indecent broadcasts."

Specifically, the FCC took issue with the naked Twister play-by-play--running commentary on "genitalia, buttocks and breasts, the discussion of sexual acts with porn star Dave Cummings, and what the FCC called "a broadcast of a pornographic film actress being masturbated to orgasm on-air with a vibrator."

The Cummings interview rubbed the FCC the wrong way in a number of aspects, including talk of oral sex and the details of a 2002 Wildlife Productions Anal Contest,  including the following commentary by one of the on-air hosts: “[w]ell, $1,500 extra to have some guy pound you in the wazoo.I don’t see how you can turn that down."
The FCC also said of the interview that "such terms as “money shot” and “doing” women have a clear and unmistakable sexual import."
The FCC's post-Janet Jackson indecency crackdown has led at least three broadcasters, Clear Channel, Viacom, and Emmis, to pay big bucks to settle their indecency complaints rather than continue to challenge the FCC.

Entercom executives were all on holiday and could not be reached at press time for their take on the just-announced proposal of apparent liability.

In response to the initial complaint, however, Entercom had argued that 1) it could not conclusively confirm it had aired the material in question (stations are not required to keep tapes, much to the displeasure of the Democratic FCC commissioners), 2) that the broadcasts were not indecent by the FCC's standards, 3) that those standards are unconstitutionally vague anyway, and 4) that contemporary community standards have changed to the point that the material at issue is not patently offensive.

The FCC disagreed, rejecting Entercom's contention that because the stations are highly rated in the market that they do not violate community standards.

the FCC argued, as it has before, that community standards aren't acutally the standards of a particular community, but those of "an average broadcast listener and with respect to Commission decisions," but without respect to "any particular geographic area."

In separate statements, Republican FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin  and Democrat Michael Copps said they thought the fine should have been even higher, pointing out that the FCC is able to  fine "per utterance." "In this instance, we could have found several violations within the broadcasts at issue and therefore could have assessed a larger fine," said Martin.

Said Copps: "I disagree with the majority’s conclusion that we are precluded from issuing a fine for each indecent utterance within a broadcast because we had not provided adequate notice. In this case, I believe the Commission could have found multiple violations and assessed a larger fine."

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.