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Indecency-Complaint Form Omits Indecency - Broadcasting & Cable

Indecency-Complaint Form Omits Indecency

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The Federal Communications Commission announced a new, easier indecency-complaint process Tuesday, but it would be hard to tell that from the result.

The Office of Management and Budget has approved two new FCC complaint forms, one for (non-slamming) telephone and indecency complaints (form 475) and one for phone slamming complaints (501).

The commission says the new complaint forms make the process easier and less time consuming for complainants, and will insure that the complaint contains the minimum amount of information the commission needs to process it.

The commission has taken some heat in the past for its indecency complaint process. After trying to navigate to the new, easier, form, we think we know why.

In an announcement of the new form (475), the FCC provided a link for accessing it http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/complaints.html, which took us to a page whose header read "Filing a complaint with the FCC is Easy," underneath which was a link labeled "Indecency and Obscenity complaints. Click Here." We did, which linked to "Obscene, Profane and Indecent Broadcasts, FCC Consumer Facts," a handy guide to definitions of those categories.

The bottom of that page said: "You may also file a complaint electronically using the FCC Form 475 (complaint form) at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/complaints.html. If that link looks familiar, it's the one above that linked to the "Filing is Easy" header.

Once there again, we clicked on the form 475 link, which brought up a form titled "FCC Form 475 - General-Telephone Related Issues," filled with a lot of telephone-related language that seemed to have nothing to do with indecency.

Perlesta Hollingsworth of the FCC's consumer & governmental affairs bureau, conceded that there appeared to be no reference to indecency or obscenity complaints anywhere on the new form and promised to look into the omission.

He said that, initially, the commission had submitted one form to OMB that would cover phone slamming and non-slamming issues plus indecency complaints, but that OMB had suggested there be two forms, which the FCC produced, though indecency seemed to have slipped through the cracks on form 475.

Hollingsworth thought the FCC might have missed a deadline to submit a third form breaking out indecency complaints, but couldn't explain why there was no mention of those complaints on the form that was approved.

The forms had to go through OMB because any change that deals with an information collection obligation must first be approved by OMB per the Paperwork Reduction Act. Any change to add indecency complaint language would presumably have to run that gauntlet again, so the FCC may have to adjust the instructions to fit the seemingly phone-exclusive form.

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