The Federal Communications Commission Thursday reversed itself and ruled that singer Bono's use of the F-word on NBC's Golden Globes telecast was "indecent and profane."
Although it did not fine Bono or NBC, it made it clear that it would the next time.
The Media Bureau had earlier ruled that use of the word as an adjective was not indecent. The FCC commissioners unanimously disagreed. The only dissent came from Commissioners Michael Copps and Kevin Martin, who said the industry should already have been on notice and that there should have been a fine this time.
It is the first time the FCC has applied the profanity portion of the indecency rules to the F-word. To be precise, it was the emotional ejaculation, "F***ing brilliant," that started all this.
"The gratuitous use of such vulgar language on broadcast television will not be tolerated," FCC chairman Michael Powell said.
In separate proceedings, the FCC also fined Infinity the maximum $27,500 for an indecent broadcast on WRKR-FM (Howard Stern) and Capstar the maximum $55,000 for two incidents on WAVW(FM) Stuart, Fla., and WCZR(FM) Vero Beach, Fla, for a conversation between a host and a couple engaged in either actual or simulated sex.
The FCC's warning to broadcasters on the F-word, and by extension other profanities, was this: "All broadcasters are on clear notice that similar broadcasts in the future will lead to forfeitures and potential license revocation, if appropriate."
NBC Responded in a statement: "We believe the Commission made the right decision in not fining us over the regrettable Bono incident.... As we have previously said, Bono's utterance was unacceptable and we regret it happened. Today's decision confirms that the rules in place at that time did not subject broadcasters to strict liability for fleeting utterances in live broadcasts."
Parents Television Council, which had asked the FCC to reconsider the Bono ruling, still wasn’t happy, saying there should have been a fine. “Bono may have used the F-word as an adjective,” said Brent Bozell, “but today's FCC ruling turned it into a verb directed at American families.