Singer sues U.S. FCC over indecency ruling

By | February 1, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Singer Sarah Jones on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission, arguing that a ruling that one of her songs broadcast on a radio station was indecent violated her constitutional rights.

Last May, after receiving a complaint, the FCC proposed fining the non-commercial radio station KBOO-FM in Portland, Oregon, $7,000 for the broadcast of a rap song entitled “Your Revolution” that contains “unmistakable patently offensive sexual references.”

The regulator had rejected an argument by the station that the material was not indecent and that the agency has to consider the artistic merit in deciding whether material is indecent.

“I wrote ‘Your Revolution’ as a response to the music on mainstream radio, which often treats women as sex objects and playthings,” Jones said in a statement.

“It makes no sense that the government is trying to ban a song that offers an empowering alternative to the degrading messages that play freely on the radio every day,” she said, adding that other stations are refusing to play the song as a result.

U.S. law prohibits the broadcast of obscene or indecent programming, and the FCC has defined indecent speech to include language that depicts or describes sexual organs or acts and is patently offensive, “as measured by contemporary community standards.”

An FCC spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit. The station responded to the FCC’s proposed fine on July 9 and the agency has been reviewing the matter.

“The commission ruling violates the First Amendment of the United States as applied because it creates an effective ban on constitutionally protected speech, based both on the context and the viewpoint of that speech,” the lawsuit said.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Jones’ behalf by Frankfurt Garbus Kurnit Klein and Selz and the People for the American Way Foundation.

Last year, a radio station in Wisconsin was fined $7,000 for playing an unedited version of a rap song by Eminem that his detractors argued was full of profanity and glorification of rape, murder and homophobia.

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