APRIL 17, 1987/MONTROSE VOICE 3
Gay Play Broadcast Led to Decision
FCC Tightens Obscenity Rules
By Sydney Shaw
WASHINGTON (UPI)—The government warned broadcasters Thursday of
a new crackdown on language that goes
beyond the famous "seven dirty words"
and promised stricter enforcement of
bans on the airing of offensive material.
The Federal Communications Commission ruled that television and radio
stations will have to adhere to narrower
standards of what can be permissibly
aired, primarily on the content of the
material and the time ofthe broadcast.
In the last decade, the FCC said,
broadcasters have relaxed definitions
of what is offensive material, using
almost exclusively the "seven dirty
words" as a yardstick.
But the FCC said it now will return to
applying "the generic definition of indecency," defined as "language or material that depicts or describes, in terms
patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for
the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory activities or organs."
That definition came from the FCC's
1975 Pacifica decision, upheld by the
Supreme Court in 1978, in which the
"seven dirty words" were ruled to be
obscene material not suitable for broadcast.
Thursday's FCC decision will apply
to American radio and television stations. Officials said violaters would be
subject to fines and the ultimate penalty
in the broadcasting industry loss of
"What we are doing here today is to
correct an altogether too narrow interpretation of decency," said FCC Commissioner Dennis Patrick, expected to
take over from Mark Fowler as chairman of the agency next week.
Fowler said, "Is this the way we want
to entertain and inform and inspire people in the audience? Is this a legacy you,
the broadcasters, want to foster, per-
serve and bequeath?"
Several commissioners emphasized
the policy will not chill free speach, noting that obscene speech is not protected
by the First Amendment.
The FCC action arose specifically
from complaints against radio stations
WYSP-FM in Philadelphia, and the
non-commercial stations KCSB-FM in
Santa Barbara, Calif., and KPFK-FM
in Los Angeles.
WYSP carries a morning program by
"shock radio" personality Howard
Stern, based at WXRX-FM in New York.
KCSB, a student station at the University of California-Santa Barbara, aired
what the FCC called an "indecent
broadcast" after 10 p.m., raising con-
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cerns that children still awake at that
hour heard the broadcast.
KPFK, owned by the Pacifica
Foundation—the organization involved
in the Supreme Court case—aired
excerpts of a sexually explicit gay play,
"Jerker," in August 1986.
The FCC voted to send warning letters to the stations in question and then
reaffirmed the stricter policing of broadcasts for possibly offensive material.
The case involving the broadcast of
"Jerker" also will be referred to the Justice Department for further investigation, the commission said.
Stern was not immediately available
for comment, but his management
representative, Don Buchwald, said of
the FCC decision: "Howard has always
functioned within the letter of the law
and will continue to do so. If the law is in
violation of the First Amendment, the
broadcasters will challenge it."
The Pacifica ruling arose from the
1973 airing by Pacifica-owned WBAI-
FM of a recording by comedian George
Carlin that included the "seven dirty
words," which describe bodily functions, parts of the anatomy, sexual acts
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