Current Online

FCC listens to rap again, drops KBOO indecency fine

Originally published in Current, Feb. 24, 2003
By Dan Odenwald

The FCC has rescinded the $7,000 indecency fine it levied against Portland's KBOO for airing a song by performer Sarah Jones. In what it called a "very close case," the commission reversed its May 2001 decision that Jones' "Your Revolution" was "designed to pander and shock" and was "patently offensive."

KBOO said the song was part of a public affairs program exploring sexism. It was written to critique negative female images in hip-hop music, the station argued, not to titillate listeners, as the FCC assumed.

Upon closer examination, the FCC agreed. The sexual descriptions in the song are not sufficiently graphic to warrant sanction, the commission wrote in its Feb. 20 reversal. For example, the most graphic phrase--"six foot blow job machine"--was said only once, the commission noted.

John Crigler, KBOO's attorney, says it's rare for the FCC to overturn indecency fines, though the commission recently rescinded a fine against a commercial station in Colorado for airing Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady." In both cases, the stations challenged the FCC's decision. "If you don't fight, you are going to get rolled," Crigler says.

Most broadcasters pay the fines because it's cheaper than appealing. KBOO, for instance, paid more than $25,000 in legal fees.

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