The Federal Communications Commission Tuesday backed down from what could
have been a major First Amendment fight over raunchy lyrics contained in one of
2000's most popular recordings.
The agency's Enforcement Bureau rescinded a $7,000 fine against a Pueblo,
Colo., radio station for airing an edited version of Eminem's 'The Real Slim
Shady,' the biggest hit from The Marshall Mathers LP, which was the No. 1
album on the Billboard 200 for eight weeks.
Station officials appealed the sanction, arguing that vulgar terms for sex
and anatomy contained in the original recording were edited from the radio
version they played.
If the fine was upheld, countless rap and pop-music stations around the
country could have faced similar fines.
In vacating the fine, FCC staffers decided that the sexual references
contained in the radio versions are 'not expressed in terms sufficiently
explicit or graphic enough to be found patently offensive and do not appear to
pander to or to be used to titillate or shock its audience.'
When the fine was originally issued in June, however, the FCC said the edited
version 'contains unmistakable offensive sexual references' and 'portions of the
lyrics contain sexual references in conjunction with sexual expletives that
appear intended to pander and shock.'
The reversal eliminates what could have been a major headache for FCC
chairman Michael Powell. The fine, if upheld, would likely have been appealed to
federal court. The initial decision also appeared to conflict with his expressed
reservations about restricting broadcast content.
Democratic commissioner Michael Copps, however, criticized the decision to
let the FCC staff handle the appeal, rather than the four commissioners
'Issues of indecency on the people's airwaves are important to millions of
Americans; they are important to me,' he said in a prepared statement. 'I
believe they merit, indeed compel, commissioner-level action.'
A fine in a similar case remains on appeal with a decision expected soon.
Noncommercial station KBOO-FM Portland, Ore., was fined $7,000 May 14 for airing
Sarah Jones rap song 'Your Revolution.'
The song contains numerous sexually explicit passages condemning prevalent
attitudes about sexual liberty as little more than approval for male sexual