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FCC considers relaxing TV standards for nudity, profanity

"F-bombs” and some female frontal nudity could soon become kosher for primetime TV — but major media outlets have largely ignored that development during the 10 days that have transpired since the Federal Communications Commission announced it is considering relaxing the decency standards that govern nudity and profanity on broadcast television.

A Reuters wire story last week reported, “Regulators on (April 1) launched a review of policy governing the way it enforces broadcasts of nudity and profanity on radio and television. … The Federal Communications Commission issued a public notice inviting comment on whether it should focus its efforts on pursuing only the ‘most egregious’ cases in which rules are broken, or focus on isolated cases of nudity and expletives uttered on radio and TV shows.”

While urging people to denounce the proposed changes via comments to the FCC, the American Family Association warned, “Specifically, if enacted, the new FCC policy would allow network television and local radio stations to air the f-word, the s-word and to allow programs to show frontal female nudity, even during hours when they know children will be watching and listening.”

Parents Television Council president Tim Winter said via press release, “The FCC’s announcement (April 1) is deeply vexing. … It unnecessarily weakens a decency law that withstood a ferocious, 10-year constitutional attack waged by the broadcast industry. It invites yet another wave of special interest pressure to obviate the intent of Congress and the will of the American people. … On behalf of millions of families, the PTC firmly believes that the FCC should not limit indecency enforcement only to 'egregious' vs. isolated instances. The FCC is supposed to represent the interests of the American public, not the interests of the entertainment industry.”

In essence, “the decision was made as part of an effort to reduce an overwhelming backlog of complaints that had been building up since the Bush administration, when the FCC vowed to crack down on so-called fleeting expletives,” the International Business Times reported Wednesday.

The pertinent FCC public notice from April 1 states, “We now seek comment on whether the full Commission should make changes to its current broadcast indecency policies or maintain them as they are. For example, should the Commission treat isolated expletives in a manner consistent with our (prior) decision … ‘If a complaint focuses solely on the use of expletives, we believe that … deliberate and repetitive use in a patently offensive manner is a requisite to a finding of indecency.’”

Jamshid Ghazi Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at or 801-236-6051.