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Introduction Of The Clean Airwaves Act

Rep. Doug Ose

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Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce the Clean Airwaves Act, legislation designed to prohibit seven profane words from being broadcast over America's airwaves. Existing guidelines and standards that govern our airwaves and communications mediums allow profane language to infiltrate the hearts and minds of our nation's youth. I rise today to protect our children from existing rules and regulations that leave them vulnerable to obscene, indecent, and profane speech through broadcast communication.

The purpose of the Clean Airwaves Act is to amend section 1464 of Title 18 of the United States Code from which the Federal Communications Commission derives its authority to regulate the use of profane language used in broadcast communications. This legislation will help close the loophole on profanity on our public airwaves, leaving our children free from exposure to offensive and crude speech broadcast over America's airwaves.

In FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, the U.S. Supreme Court stated, ``Among the reasons for specially treating indecent broadcasting is the uniquely pervasive presence that medium of expression occupies in the lives of our people. Broadcasts extend into the privacy of the home and it is impossible to completely avoid those that are patently offensive''. Subsequently, public broadcasting is more accessible to children.

The current FCC guidelines regarding indecency determinations aren't strong enough to stop harmful, indecent, and profane language broadcast over America's airwaves. It is wholly necessary to give the FCC the tools it needs in order to protect our broadcast airwaves. Currently under FCC policy, indecency determinations hinge on two factors. First, material must describe or depict sexual or excretory organs or activities. Second, the material must be patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium. The vagueness of this stipulation creates a loophole that inevitably allows specific profane language to be broadcast.

One notorious example of a profane broadcast aired at the Golden Globe Awards program in January of 2003. In this broadcast, performer Bono uttered a phrase that may not be repeated at this time and qualified as indeed profane and indecent by a rational and normal standard. The FCC has in its authority, the power to enforce statutory and regulatory provisions restricting indecency and obscenity. However, in the Golden Globe Awards example, the FCC concluded that the use of the word as an adjective or expletive to emphasize an exclamation did not meet their threshold for indecency. The FCC further stated in the October 3, 2003 Memorandum Opinion and Order that ``in similar circumstances, we have found that offensive language used as an insult rather than as a description of sexual or excretory activity or organs is not within the scope of the commission's prohibition of indecent program content.'' As a result, the use of particular profane language was aired to the public and no action was taken to ensure it would not take place in the future.

Therefore, I reiterate the necessity to act upon this loophole in the U.S. Code to ensure that the public is free from inappropriate communications over public broadcasts and that our airwaves be clean of obscenity, indecency, and profanity.