Bozell: FCC Has No Human Reader to Prevent Obscene Radio Call Letters

Can a radio station owner submit an obscene set of call letters for his station and have it approved by the Federal Communications Commission? Brent Bozell's culture column passes along that two prospective stations in Hawaii were granted the call letters KUNT (and KWTF), which the station owner quickly apologized for submitting. But the FCC, for its many millions in expenditures, has no living, breathing human checking to make sure that embarrassing call letters aren't included in their usual online submission process. Brent elaborates:

It wasn’t that long ago that the bureaucracy at the Federal Communications Commission fell on its collective rump when with Solomonic wisdom it announced that use of the “f-bomb” over the broadcast airwaves didn’t constitute an indecency so long as that word was used as an “intensifier” adjective, and not a verb. The real world shook its head in disbelief, the appropriate cobwebs were cleared, and ultimately the FCC reversed itself.Never underestimate a federal bureaucracy. The FCC has struck again.One responsibility of this agency is to assign call letters to new TV and radio stations. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin has reported that deep in a 15-pages list of new call letters issued by the FCC last month, the call letters KUNT were granted to a yet-unbuilt low-power digital television station in Wailuku, Maui. The Honolulu paper discovered that the FCC doesn’t exactly hire a human to look over the call letter list. Apparently the agency’s $300 million annual budget goes only so far. Assignment of the station letters actually is an automated process, according to Mary Diamond of the FCC's Office of Media Relations. Broadcasters use the FCC Web site to request and receive call letters with no oversight from any FCC human. The station owners have now stepped in to reverse this outrage and Kevin Bae, vice president of KM Communications Inc. in Skokie, Illinois, has now apologized. It is "extremely embarrassing for me and my company and we will file to change those call letters immediately."But this is not the first time the FCC has been asleep at the assignment desk, nor have other station owners reflected KM’s responsibility. KCUF-FM near Aspen, Colo. got its F-word-in-reverse call letters in August of 2005 and has been on the air since December.

From there, Brent looks at how the Internet can be a haven for creeps, as in Jack McClellan, a self-promoting pedophile blogger in Los Angeles who drew some heavy publicity recently.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis