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RTNDA Opposes Indecency Crackdown

The Radio-Television News Directors Association Friday joined Viacom Inc., NBC and others asking the Federal Communications Commission to reverse its recent decree that broadcasts containing the "f-word," and potentially other words, as well, are indecent regardless of the context of the programming.

RTNDA said the ruling unconstitutionally limits broadcast journalists' ability   "to provide accurate and insightful reporting to the public. "

In March,  the FCC ruled that U2  singer  Bono’s use of the “ f -word”  during NBC's Golden Globe  coverage was “indecent” and “profane.” The Golden Globes decision was a departure from previous FCC rulings effectively giving broadcasters a pass when expletives were used in isolated or fleeting broadcast ways.

Besides ruling the "f-word”  off-limits, the FCC said other profanity could be deemed indecent.  “The Commission’s actions have further muddied the already vague definition of indecency, left broadcasters to guess which words and phrases will subject them to strict liability, and offer no guidance as to when, if ever, the context of a given program will outweigh its presumed offensiveness , ”  the group said in its filing to the FCC.

RTNDA argues it is now too risky for radio and television stations to air live audio and video from nearly any type of news events, specially "emotionally charged" sports interviews, demonstrations, disasters or terrorist attacks, particularly if congress follows through with bills hiking indecency fines to $500,000 or more.

"In some instances, language that may be objectionable to some is integral to news reporting." By removing context when judging the appropriateness of some words, the FCC is "interfering with the editorial judgments of broadcast licensees" and violating the First Amendment, the group said. “To suggest that coverage of news events be sanitized, as the Commission has now done, is in and of itself a form of censorship."