Media firms, artists ask FCC to reconsider F-word ruling

By The Associated Press
04.20.04

NEW YORK — A coalition of media companies, artists and civil rights activists yesterday asked the Federal Communications Commissions to reconsider its recent ruling against the musician Bono for his use of an expletive during last year’s Golden Globes broadcast.

CBS owner Viacom Inc. participated in the challenge, as did Fox Entertainment Group Inc., the American Civil Liberties Union, the Screen Actors Guild, the comedians Penn & Teller and Margaret Cho, and others.

Last month the FCC overruled its staff and declared that Bono’s use of an expletive while accepting an award on television was indecent and profane. However, they did not impose a fine since they had never before said that practically any use of the expletive violated its rules.

That ruling came on the same day that the commission also announced three fines for what it deemed indecent radio broadcasts, two against Infinity Broadcasting, including one for a Howard Stern show, and one against a unit of Clear Channel Communications. Infinity is a subsidiary of Viacom.

The group said in a statement that the FCC’s ruling against Bono was “chilling free speech across the broadcast landscape,” prompting broadcasters to abandon live programming and to drop or heavily edit classic rock songs such as “Who Are You” by The Who and “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed.

FCC spokesman David Fiske declined to comment on the group’s filing, which is called a petition for reconsideration.

The FCC did not immediately return a call for comment.

The incident in question occurred at last year’s Golden Globe awards, when Bono, the lead singer of the Irish rock group U2, said “This is really, really, f------ brilliant.” The FCC received hundreds of complaints afterward.

In its ruling, the FCC rejected earlier findings that occasional use of that word was acceptable. The FCC’s own enforcement bureau had ruled last October that Bono’s remarks weren’t obscene because they didn’t describe a sexual act.