This Press Statement: Text | Word97
Complaint & Decision Letters: Illinois | North Carolina

Statement from Commissioner Michael J. Copps

In order to protect children from indecent programming, Congress passed laws limiting the broadcast of "obscene, indecent or profane" language and charged the FCC with the enforcement of these laws. As an FCC Commissioner, I have a responsibility to ensure that the indecency laws of the United States are being enforced. I take this responsibility with the utmost seriousness.

I want to take the opportunity presented by these decisions to express some thoughts on the Commission's enforcement of the indecency laws.

As a parent, I am concerned about what seems to be an increasing amount of sexually explicit and profane programming on the airwaves and the potentially detrimental effects of this programming on our children. Our nation has enacted laws - Constitutionally sanctioned laws - to protect young people from these excesses.

One of the complaints dismissed today involves an allegation that, during a morning radio program, the twenty-seven-year-old host discussed - perhaps even joked about - having had sexual relations with a nine-year-old child. This sort of content is at least offensive to the listening public, if not indecent. It is government's responsibility - and more specifically that of the FCC - to ensure that indecent programming is not broadcast when children are likely to be in the audience.

The process by which the FCC has enforced these laws places an inordinate responsibility on the complaining citizen. It seems to me that when enforcing the indecency laws of the United States it is the Commission's responsibility to investigate complaints that the law has been violated, not the citizen's responsibility to prove the violations.

Lack of information about what was said and when it was broadcast should not be allowed to derail our enforcement of the laws. If something is said on the public airwaves, a strong argument can be made that it should be part of the public record. I believe that most broadcasters already retain recordings of their broadcasts, for a variety of reasons. That strikes me as good management. Our indecency enforcement should not create a disincentive for broadcasters to do so. As a newly-confirmed Commissioner, I am interested in looking at how the Commission could encourage universal retention of recordings of broadcast programming to aid in its indecency enforcement.

Going forward, I want to ensure that the Commission investigates rigorously the complaints filed by citizens. Americans have a right to expect their government to enforce the indecency laws of the United States. This will be an important priority for me as I begin my service at the Commission.