FCC policy notes that, “we remain free to exercise discretion in situations that arise in specific cases,” and stresses that these penalties will be strictly enforced as the inspection of college stations increases (1991).
|Base Amounts for Section 503 Forfeitures|
|Misrepresentation or lack of candor||$20,000|
|False distress communications||$20,000|
|Failure to permit inspection||$18,750|
|Failure to respond to FCC communications||$17,500|
|Exceeding power limits||$12,500|
|EBS equipment not installed or operating||$12,500|
|Transmission of indecent/obscene material||$12,500|
|Political rules: Reasonable access, lowest unit charge, equal opportunities, discrimination||$12,500|
|Failure to file required forms or information||$7,500|
|Violation of public file rule||$7,500|
|Violation of sponsorship ID requirements||$6,250|
|Violation of lotter/contest broadcasting rules||$6,250|
|Violation of technical logs||$5,000|
|Unauthorized telephone broadcasting||$5,000|
|Failure to conduct required monitoring||$2,500|
|Failure to provide legal ID||$2,500|
|Failure to maintain records||$2,500|
Each DJ at WUOG is required to hold a Radio-Telephone Third Class Operations Permit. This license is obtainable only after the successful completion of Jock Training. No unlicensed person is permitted to use WUOG’s broadcasting equipment. Period.
WUOG is non-commercial radio. What that means is that no paid or unpaid advertisements or commercial mentions are to go out over 90.5FM at any time. We do, however, offer underwriting, which is different from advertising in serveral ways.
The FCC is notoriously vague about what is and is not objectionable material for broadcast. That does not mean that we cannot be fined or shut down “because we didn’t know better.” Always err on the side of caution. Excerpts of the FCC’s guidelines, as provided to us by the NACB, are as follows:
I. Definition. In 1987, the Commission replaced its “seven dirty words” standard with a “generic” definition of indecency. Indecent material is now defined as: “language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory activities or organs.”
a. Context. The Commission has defined context only by stating that it encompasses a “host of variables” which include the “manner” in which the material is presented, the issue of whether the offensive material is isolated or fleeting, and the “merit” of the material.
b. [applies only to television]
c. Patently Offensive. The standard applied is a national standard based upon what the Commission at any given time believes will offend the “average” broadcast listener. Because the standard does not look to local values or sensibilities, it is discernible primarily through rulings as to what the Commission finds offensive. Examples of its findings include popular songs which contain repeated references to sex or sexual organs (”Penis Envy,” “Walk with an Erection,” “Erotic City,” “Jet Boy, Jet Girl,” “Makin’ Bacon”); DJ banter concerning tabloid sex scandals (Vanessa Williams’ photographs in Penthouse and a honeymooner whose testicle was caught in a hot tub drain); discussions between DJs and callers concerning intimate sexual questions (”What makes your hiney parts tingle?” “What’s the grossest thing you ever put in your mouth?”); dirty jokes or puns (”Liberace was great on the piano but sucked on the organ.”); non-clinical references to gay, lesbian, or oral sex, masturbation, sodomy, erections, orgasms, etc.; and the seven dirty words (shit, fuck, piss, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, tits).
V. Unsuccessful Defenses. In outlining its indecency policy and ruling on indecency complaints, the Commission has discussed a number of defenses which it will not credit in making indecency determinations. These include:
a. Licensee’s Good Faith Judgement. Broadcasters are held strictly accountable for airing indecent material. The Commission gives no weight to the broadcaster’s judgement that material was not indecent, although it may take such judgments into account in determining the severity of the sanction to be imposed.
b.Humor and Spontaneity. The Commission has repeatedly rejected arguments that humorous or ironic intent should be considered in determining whether material is indecent. It has similarly rejected arguments that the indecency policy interferes with the spontaneity of talk or call-in shows.
c. Popularity. In response to a complaint against a Howard Stern program, the licensee offered demographic data to show that the show had broad appeal and did not offend adult listeners in the New York metropolitan area. The Commission rejected this showing as irrelevant.
d. Lack of Appeal to Children. The Commission similarly rejected a survey which purported to show that virtually no children listened to the Stern program. The relevant test, the Commission held, was not whether children actually listened to a particular program, but whether they listened to any program in the market. So long as there were children in the market, they might “incidentally” tune in to a station carrying indecent material.
e. Lack of Pandering or Titillating Appeal. Material may be indecent even if it is not pandering or titillating in nature. Songs such as “Penis Envy” and “Makin’ Bacon” were held to be indecent because they contained lewd references to genital organs, even though those references may not have been titillating.
f. Innuendo. Double Entendre, Indirect Allusions. Material may be indecent evern if it does not contain graphic descriptions of sexual activity. An indirect allusion may be deemed offensive “if it is understandable and clearly capable of a specific sexual or excretory meaning which, in context, is inescapable.” WIOD-AM, Miami, was fined $10,000 for airing material such as “Candy Wrapper” (a song in which various candy bar names symbolize sexual activities) and “Butch Beer” (a satiric commercial which, in the Commission’s view, contained an “unambiguous” “lesbian theme”).
g. Surprise. In rejecting arguments that a DJ was surprised by the indecent remarks of a caller, the Commission has suggested that all stations using talk show or call-in formats should pre-record these programs or use some form of screening device, such as a tape delay, so that inappropriate remarks can be edited prior to broadcast.
h. Remedial Efforts. Disciplinary and remedial actions taken in the wake of an indecent broadcast will be considered only in determining the size of any fine to beimposed. Such actions must be “prompt and effective” to have any impact. The Commission refused to reduce a $2,000 fine against WZTA-FM, Miami, where the licensee took no action for more than two months after a DJ aired indecent material.
Deliberate obscenity will result in your dismissal or suspension from 90.5FM and an “unsatisfactory service” notation on your FCC license.
The FCC requires that we keep a public file, loaded with tons o’ useful and interesting information pertaining to our station’s history, contact with the community, and station personnel. If a member of the FCC comes to the station to persue our Public File, please contact the GM, OD, PD, or GA right away.
At the top of every hour we must announce our legal station ID. The wording is required by the FCC to be exactly, “90.5FM is WUOG, Athens.”
For more information about advertising, WUOG’s non-profit status, and underwriting, please visit our Advertising and Underwriting section.