Thursday, November 18, 2004

Censorship by the FCC

Ring of Fire Enterprises Blog Page:
"Can you say 'reproductive rights'? Not, if you're a sponsor of NPR radio station, WUNC, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The general manager of the station has a sponsor interested in women's reproductive rights internationally, but the station made them change the term to 'reproductive health'. The reason was to avoid trouble with the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC prohibits public radio stations from airing underwriting announcements that advocate political, social or religious causes.

'We can accept sponsorships and make announcements from advocacy groups, but we can't use advocacy language,' said general manager Joan Siefert Rose. 'Unfortunately, the FCC doesn't specify what that is. There's no list of forbidden terms. The only way to find out if you've stepped over the line is if someone challenges it and the FCC issues a fine. So we are always pretty conservative in interpreting the announcements we make.'

The FCC will act on complaints from as few as three people. Buzzflash obtained the following information through the Freedom of Information Act:
... the latest big fine by the FCC against a TV network -- a record $1.2 million against Fox for its 'sexually suggestive' Married by America -- was brought about by a mere three people who actually composed letters of complaint. Yes, just three people

I examined the complaints and found that all but two of them were virtually identical. In other words, one person took the time to write a letter and 20 other people then photocopied or merely emailed it to the FCC many times. They all came from an automated complaint factory... Only two letters were not the form letter.

So in the end, that means that a grand total of three citizens bothered to take the time to sit down and actually write a letter of complaint"