Indecent Rules

Pleasing the censors


Two years ago, the Federal Communications Commission hit the cash-strapped noncommercial Oregon station KBOO with a $7,000 fine. Its crime: playing Sarah Jones' "Your Revolution," a sexually explicit slap at hip-hop misogyny. Now the commission has rescinded the fine.

"While this was a very close case," David Solomon of the Enforcement Bureau told Radio and Records, "we now conclude that the broadcast was not indecent because, on balance and in context, the sexual descriptions in the song are not sufficiently graphic to warrant sanction."

On one level, this is a victory for free speech: A radio station will not be fined for merely playing a song, and an FCC that permits far more graphic raps to be broadcast has removed itself from the embarrassing position of declaring an attack on those records is too seamy to air. On another level, though, we still have the ugly spectacle—one might even call it indecent—of a small group of bureaucrats weighing the social merit of a recording, checking it against their indecency tally sheet, and ruling on whether it's suitable for the tender ears of Portland, Oregon. After four decades of beating back censorship, it's hard to believe that such as process has survived.