Broadcast observer asks Supremes to free radio speech


Randy Dotinga, who has been writing about broadcasting and radio in the San Diego area for years, has all kinds of questions about the need to continue singling out broadcasters when it comes to indecent programming. For one thing, he notes that broadcasters stay away from George Carlin’s “heavy seven” bad words, but other equally bad words can be uttered with impunity because they haven’t been specifically banned.

Dotinga, who writes for the North County Times, makes the following points, in addition pointing out the use of questionable but not directly-regulated words and phrases.

He wonders why shockingly violent material – material sure to shock adults, let along children — can be aired, while “bad words” used playfully cannot.

He wonders why broadcast should be an exception in a world with wired, satellite and mobile options that are completely unregulated.

He wonders how any government agency can possibly enforce such a gray body of regulation as the FCC is asked to do.

He wonders about the shifting definition of “fleeting.” (RBR-TVBR notes that the FCC’s unilateral decision to change the definition in the wake of the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction had a lot to do with the whole indecency case making it all the say to the Supreme Court.)

He wonders how it is possible that some programs get a free pass and others do not. (The shining example here that F-bombs in a Tom Hanks project were OK, but were not OK in a Martin Scorsese project.)

RBR-TVBR observation: Back in an earlier millennium when we were playing shortstop for a popular trade magazine in a coed softball league filled entirely with communications entities (including the NAB and FCC, BTW), one of our many rallying cries was “Honk the Bobo!” The phrase came from radio, its meaning was likely understood by the radio station’s audience, and it demonstrated how easy it is to skirt the rules. It begs the question, what’s the real point of having the rules?