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FCC Seeks Indecency 'Clarity'

The FCC is still considering a host of indecency actions. Sources say they are likely to be released as a package deal and handled on the commissioner level rather than issued by the Enforcement Bureau.

Enforcement Bureau notices of apparent liability, or complaint denials, do not have to be voted on by the commissioners. For instance, the initial finding that the Bono F-word on NBC's Golden Globes broadcast was not indecent was not voted on by the commissioners, while the reversal of that decision was.

Sources say FCC Chairman Kevin Martin wanted to release the actions all at once -- and with the commissioners weighing in -- so that there could be more clarity (and fewer Bono-like reversals) to FCC indecency enforcement going forward.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, for one, is on the record saying he would like to see the commissioners more directly involved in indecency decisions.

FCC indecency fines provide broadcasters with guidance on what they can program. But without a clear statutory definition, that guidance is the sum of past FCC decisions to fine or not to.

One line of reasoning goes that since those decisions effectively constrain content for the nation's most powerful communications medium, arguably even more so when companies are settling complaints with promises of self-regulation, the commissioners should have to vote on them.