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Author Topic: CENSORSHIP and Amateur Radio  (Read 18920 times)
K2ACB
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Posts: 64




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« on: December 30, 2011, 07:47:21 AM »

This topic is an offshoot of my last comment on the thread "Are there still places where ham licenses can be bought w/o a test"

As I wrote in that comment amateur radio transcends borders.Every country sets its own standards as to what amateur radio operators may discuss over the air. In the USA we are blessed with a Constitution that in the most part allows freedom of speech. US radio amateurs have the right to discuss practically anything they want over the air including such subjects as politics,religion ,sex and other subjects which may tend to be controversial. Radio amateurs in most other countries around the world are forbidden by law from discussing controversial subjects over the air.


I know that there are others who feel that there should be no self censorship as to what radio amateurs may discuss over the air as long as it is legal in the USA.


I think that an overwhelming majority of radio amateurs in the USA refrain from discussing controversial matters over the air ,especially on hf.

I for one will not intentionally talk or discuss anything controversial over the air even if it maybe legal to do so in the USA.One never knows who is listening and I do not want intentionally or un intentionally to create controversy over the air or to antagonize someone who maybe listening outside the borders of the USA who maybe offended by what I am talking about.

As far as I am concerned amateur radio is a hobby that should promote friendship understanding,and respect among radio amateurs throughout the world and anyone who maybe listening to radio amateur conversations. It should not be used as a platform to discuss controversial matters.I think only a very small number of radio amateurs discuss controversial subjects.However I have spoken to a few US radio amateurs who say we have a right to say anything we want over the air as long as it is legal . We do not care who is listening or if are views are offensive.


There is also a case now making its way through the Federal court system of the USA that will probably reach the US Supreme Court,the highest court in the land as to what constitutes proper language that maybe spoken over the air. There are now several four letter slang words which if spoken over regular radio and television stations in the USA including the use by radio amateurs over the air that could result in a fine or if used repeatedly to suspension or removal of a license and even under extreme circumstances jail for the offender. But these same four letter words are permitted over satellite radio and cable tv channels .

My question is should US radio amateurs refrain from discussing controversial matters over the air and if the Federal courts in the USA allow the use of certain four letter slang words that are now illegal to use over the air should radio amateurs use these words though they could be offensive to others and illegal to use over the air in most other countries.
73
Alan-K2ACB



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M0HCN
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Posts: 473




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« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2011, 04:45:56 PM »

My question is should US radio amateurs refrain from discussing controversial matters over the air and if the Federal courts in the USA allow the use of certain four letter slang words that are now illegal to use over the air should radio amateurs use these words though they could be offensive to others and illegal to use over the air in most other countries.
Controversial matters could be a legitimate subject of discussion for all that such is likely to produce more heat then light and that such discussion is unlikely to change any minds, but that is not the same thing as being offensive. I can disagree with you without being offended by your views, it is called debate and both our political systems are founded on it.
 
On deliberately offensive language, personally I would tend to the view that the answer is that the law should not really enter into this and that one should refrain.  While there is no right not to be offended, I tend to hold that one should generally seek to avoid giving offense, and that this holds irrespective of the question of the legality of so doing.
 
73, Dan.
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W7ETA
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Posts: 2527




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« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2011, 05:25:31 PM »

I'm not interested in what one person thinks other ops should do.

People's choice for how they want to live their lives are interesting.

The question of why some people attach negative reactions to a specific word and not to another word that equally describes the identical thing is interesting.

Also interesting is that a person might try and control the words another person uses based upon their emotional reaction to the word.

Fortunately, I can use descriptors other than ones many people consider unspeakable.

73
Bob
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AB2T
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Posts: 246




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« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2011, 05:51:57 PM »

There is also a case now making its way through the Federal court system of the USA that will probably reach the US Supreme Court,the highest court in the land as to what constitutes proper language that maybe spoken over the air. There are now several four letter slang words which if spoken over regular radio and television stations in the USA including the use by radio amateurs over the air that could result in a fine or if used repeatedly to suspension or removal of a license and even under extreme circumstances jail for the offender. But these same four letter words are permitted over satellite radio and cable tv channels .


XM/Sirius actually promoted Howard Stern's move to satellite on the sole basis that he could swear, slur, and discuss sexually graphic material.  Stern and XM profited by the no-holds-barred speech permitted on private satellite subscription companies.

As for ham radio: we've all heard the crap on 75m and higher up on 20m.  Just twirl the VFO.  Hams who swear, slur, have explicit discussions, etc. have already ostracized themselves from the greater hobby.  No need to worry about them.  They've created their own prison.
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K9AIM
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Posts: 1092




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« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2012, 06:53:37 AM »

Hams who swear, slur, have explicit discussions, etc. have already ostracized themselves from the greater hobby.  No need to worry about them.  They've created their own prison. 

QSL.  I turned in 14.313 yesterday and 'saw' why it has a reputation.  Wow -- the mental asylum now has a xmtr!

I was away from the hobby from 1978 till 2008, and was surprised by how far things had degraded on SSB.  Yesterday on 10m I heard a station from 6 land say: 'god-d*mn' and that someone had their 'head up their Obama'.   I don't care if you have been divided into riding just the far left or far right wing of this political beast -- you have a right to voice your opinions and you cannot help it if you have no intellect -- but please do not turn ham radio into CB!  Half of our country supports the party you hate whether you are a right or left winger, so open your mind up just a little when you are on the air.  Thanks and 73
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N2EY
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Posts: 3895




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« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2012, 08:53:50 AM »


XM/Sirius actually promoted Howard Stern's move to satellite on the sole basis that he could swear, slur, and discuss sexually graphic material.  Stern and XM profited by the no-holds-barred speech permitted on private satellite subscription companies.

But there is a BIG difference between satellite, "regular" broadcasting, and amateur radio.

The reason satellite and other subscription companies have free rein is because nobody gets to see or hear the content without signing up and actively choosing it. I don't subscribe, but I bet it is a simple matter to set up an XM/Sirius account or receiver so that a subscriber never hears Howard Stern. Not one word.

Broadcast TV operates on a published schedule, with each program rated as to content - language, violence, nudity, etc. Even without the "V-chip", a viewer can know ahead of time what a show will contain, and avoid it - or seek it out - as desired.

IOW, with those services, you know up-front what is coming.

Ham radio is completely different. Nobody owns a frequency, and except for a few bulletin/code practice stations and beacons, hams don't publish schedules and content warnings. And there's no "V-chip" on a ham rig!

So we are held to a different standard. Which is as it should be.

As for ham radio: we've all heard the crap on 75m and higher up on 20m.  Just twirl the VFO.  Hams who swear, slur, have explicit discussions, etc. have already ostracized themselves from the greater hobby.  No need to worry about them.  They've created their own prison.

Yes and no.

On the one hand, jamming and on-air confrontation isn't the solution.

But at the same time, the presence of such behavior in ham radio affects all of us, whether or not we encounter it or partake in it. Or even if we actively avoid it.

For example, suppose you want to put up a tower, and live in a place where some sort of permit or variance is needed. You do all the required steps - plans, engineering data, RE attorney, before-and-after views (Photoshop makes it easy), PRB-1 handouts, and such, in order to convince the Board, Commission or whomever that your installation should be allowed.

But one neighbor decides to oppose it, for some reason. And this neighbor, rather than  making a case about visual appeal, property values, hazards, or such, simply records some of the above-mentioned on-air behaviors, and plays them for the Board or Commission. And submits transcripts in case there's any doubt. And tells the decison-makers "This is what those hams do on the air. They need big antennas and towers so more people can hear them doing it."

The neighbor never says it's what YOU will do. He doesn't have to. You cannot deny that the recordings are genuine, either; the neighbor swears to them and has times, dates and frequencies logged.

Think you'll get your variance or permit?

Or consider some business or other wanting access to our bands, and their advocates play similar recordings for the FCC, Congresscritters, etc.

Think the decision-makers will side with amateur radio after that?

There has to be a solution besides "turn the dial". But I don't know what it is.

73 de Jim, N2EY

"Just because you can, doesn't mean you should"

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KA5N
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Posts: 4380




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« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2012, 10:52:45 AM »


Does censorship for Amateur Radio have anything to do with "dirty"  signals??

Allen
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AB2T
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Posts: 246




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« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2012, 01:34:03 PM »

On the one hand, jamming and on-air confrontation isn't the solution.

But at the same time, the presence of such behavior in ham radio affects all of us, whether or not we encounter it or partake in it. Or even if we actively avoid it.

For example, suppose you want to put up a tower, and live in a place where some sort of permit or variance is needed. You do all the required steps <snip>

But one neighbor decides to oppose it, for some reason. And this neighbor, rather than  making a case about visual appeal, property values, hazards, or such, simply records some of the above-mentioned on-air behaviors, and plays them for the Board or Commission. And submits transcripts in case there's any doubt. And tells the decison-makers "This is what those hams do on the air. They need big antennas and towers so more people can hear them doing it."

The neighbor never says it's what YOU will do. He doesn't have to. You cannot deny that the recordings are genuine, either; the neighbor swears to them and has times, dates and frequencies logged.

Think you'll get your variance or permit?

You've made good points Jim.  Most hams know where the foul operators park their transmitters and avoid accordingly.  I haven't picked up a mic for seventeen years out of disgust for much of the behavior on sideband. Refusing to listen to or operate phone is _my choice_ and only mine.  It's one solution, albeit a very drastic solution.  There's nothing inherently wrong in operating phone.  The vast majority of hams do so responsibly.  I suppose that we all have different ways of coping with foul behavior on the air.

I never thought that recordings of foul operators could be used against in a municipal tower case or even in a legislative setting.  While scurrilous attacks against a ham's reputation are depraved and in my view inadmissible to any judgment, people are often persuaded by fraudulent arguments.  You are right that this is the reality of human nature and public discourse.  Hams have no control over the behavior of others and the way in which others' behavior will tarnish their reputation.  

I would also say that there is no way to banish foul operation.  This has been an issue for decades.  Hams have, for the most part, hedged foul operators onto certain frequencies.  Quarantine is probably the best and only method we have now, barring actual FCC enforcement.  

73, Jordan        


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N8YX
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Posts: 118




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« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2012, 05:39:45 AM »

One thing this "issue" doesn't need is more nanny-state intervention.

There are two separate points being discussed here:

1) 'Content'

2) 'Profane, obscene or indecent language'

See if you can differentiate between them, Gentle Readers. They're  mutually exclusive, and governmental interference with one is far more serious than with the other.

« Last Edit: January 02, 2012, 05:42:46 AM by N8YX » Logged
M0HCN
Member

Posts: 473




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« Reply #9 on: January 02, 2012, 10:57:12 AM »

Personally I say government has FAR more important things to do then worry about either, that is why the radio has a VFO!

I am not sure they are actually mutually exclusive, but with a little thought it is always possible to express any content without profanity, and it is obviously always possible to be profane without content. Ham radio is a communications transmission, it is not broadcast radio, a medium for such things as performances where profanity may be appropriate in a dramatic context.

For me the issue is not even profanity, it is setting out to cause offense, which can be done with no profanity at all (After all, swearing has a place, seldom on the air, but I will admit there are times). Further more once past the blindingly obvious, there is speech which some may find offensive, but which is not profane (And should clearly be protected), after all you can always just spin the dial (Religion and Politics often fall into this category, also consider something like a discussion of which abortion clinic has the best doctor.......).

There is a difference for me between profanity, speech which is deliberately intended to cause offense, and speech which causes offense but is not intended to do so. The distinction between the last two being so blurry and so much in the eye of the beholder that both are worthy of protection.

Profanity in a dramatic context in broadcast radio or telly is a whole can of worms.

Regards, Dan.
 
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N2EY
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« Reply #10 on: January 02, 2012, 04:05:28 PM »

Most hams know where the foul operators park their transmitters and avoid accordingly.

They where those folks usually operate. But what if they decide to try other frequencies or bands? And what about new or would-be hams who don't know?

 I haven't picked up a mic for seventeen years out of disgust for much of the behavior on sideband. Refusing to listen to or operate phone is _my choice_ and only mine.  It's one solution, albeit a very drastic solution.  There's nothing inherently wrong in operating phone.  The vast majority of hams do so responsibly.  I suppose that we all have different ways of coping with foul behavior on the air.

I'm just looking for solutions, and pointing out that avoidance doesn't completely solve the problem.

I never thought that recordings of foul operators could be used against in a municipal tower case or even in a legislative setting.  While scurrilous attacks against a ham's reputation are depraved and in my view inadmissible to any judgment, people are often persuaded by fraudulent arguments.  You are right that this is the reality of human nature and public discourse.  Hams have no control over the behavior of others and the way in which others' behavior will tarnish their reputation.

It would not be an attack on the individual ham unless the person playing the recording claimed it was the ham in question. What it would be is a an attack on ham radio itself.

And if the recording is genuine, what reply could the ham make? A promise that he wouldn't behave like that, and that he never has, might not convince the Board or Commission. After all, such folks often decide things based on experience and examples.

I would also say that there is no way to banish foul operation.  This has been an issue for decades.  Hams have, for the most part, hedged foul operators onto certain frequencies.  Quarantine is probably the best and only method we have now, barring actual FCC enforcement.

I think there may be other solutions we haven't thought of yet. And I don't mean direct-confrontation, either.

And maybe there's a way to get FCC to do more enforcement.


Main point is that simply turning the dial or not working a certain band or mode doesn't solve the problem.

73 de jim, N2EY
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K0RGR
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Posts: 106




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« Reply #11 on: January 03, 2012, 11:04:03 AM »

I don't think the ham bands are a proper place for politicking, and I hear too much of it. And yes, there are too many individuals who act as though they have a serious mental disease or two, including Tourette's.

It's an embarrassment to us all. A friend of mine was very interested in getting his ham ticket and would have been an asset to the hobby. He bought a receiver and spent some time listening. After one night on 75 meters, he sold the radio because he was ashamed to have it in his house. I've heard just as bad on 20 and 2 meters.

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K9AIM
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« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2012, 05:30:40 AM »


I think there may be other solutions we haven't thought of yet. And I don't mean direct-confrontation, either.

And maybe there's a way to get FCC to do more enforcement.

Main point is that simply turning the dial or not working a certain band or mode doesn't solve the problem.

73 de jim, N2EY

what are your ideas on other solutions?  Ham operators petitioning the FCC?  Ham operators locating some of the main bad apples and handing them over to the FCC?  These bad apples may not spoil the whole bunch, but if they are used to characterize amateur radio operators by a party wanting our spectrum, or wanting to ban amateur radio operating in their communities -- as you point out it could be far more foul than merely the stuff they spout out on certain frequencies like 14.313... We could always counter a false characterization with the majority of amateur radio operation which is worthy of respect -- but as Mark Twain once pointed out:

     "a lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting its boots on"   

Jim, I would also be interested in hearing your perspective on the overall decline of civility on the airwaves.  Testing is obviously far more relaxed now that one need not take their test in a big city FCC office, so maybe licensees feel less required to operate responsibly? Having been away for nearly 3 decades, I have a sort of a skewed perspective.  It seems operation in general is less civil & polite and more crass & informal.  But that is equally true of television, talk radio, and American society.  The older generation that populated the airwaves when I was 14 in 1976, has transformed into operators who were born more recently.  So maybe it naturally follows that I find the overall tenor of operation today more objectionable...?  Is it just the getting old syndrome?

 that said, some operation is clearly a complete violation what amateur radio operation should be and just turning the VFO, is -- as you said -- only effective as an avoidance tactic.
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AK4KZ
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« Reply #13 on: January 04, 2012, 01:28:54 PM »

In view of the fact that we already have rules and/or guidelines for conduct over the radio.. and considering that enforcement is all but a myth (otherwise there wouldn't be offenses to complain about).. creating more rules or talking about heftier enforcement is a waste of time. Not to mention that fact that I'm loath to invite even more regulation. There are ALWAYS unintended consequences. Every time.

I agree that the problem is a decline in civility, which.. given the average age of the ham population.. surprises me. Apparently, some of the greatest generation has forgotten how to be civil. Yes, I said it. Many of the people I hear keying up and spewing don't sound like the younger guys. (Of course, there's plenty of that going on too but that doesn't shock me nearly as much). But it's a societal problem. Come on. People get a beat down for not passing the ketchup. You can't have a differing opinion or idea for long before it turns into name calling. Having a conversation with differing views and then shaking hands and walking away is rare these days.

And that's not even counting the people who start trouble just to start trouble. Much like the Internet, there's a certain amount of anonymity over the radio.. particularly if you're not ID'ing. More so, really.. without the ability to trace IP addresses or router logs.

I tend to think that if you wouldn't want someone to say it to your mother, your wife or your kids, then maybe you shouldn't say it over the somewhat public airwaves. You never know who's listening. Have a little respect for people.. even if you don't agree with them.

I think it's also important to remember that we are ambassadors of, not only the hobby, but of our areas and countries. Try not to embarrass us. Or at least.. don't try to embarrass us.

Solving the problem isn't more legislation or enforcement. It's re-learning how to be decent to each other.

Just sayin'

73,
Chris
AK4KZ
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K2ACB
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« Reply #14 on: January 04, 2012, 05:16:40 PM »

I agree that there is a difference between content and profane language and perhaps the best way to contain the use of profane language on the air is by quarantine.

I would also assume that it is much easier to quarantine those that use profane language on repeaters than over hf operation. Also if there is the use of profanity especially by unlicensed or unauthorized people on a repeater the reaction of the authorities (FCC) will be quicker to help track the culprits down than on hf.

I lived in the UK from 1985-88. from 1987 -88 I was in London. There were several repeaters in the London area. There was one particular 2 meter repeater in south London that had been completely taken over by pirates.All day and night all you would hear on this repeater would be hooligans with made up monickers espousing racial epithets and four letter and curse words.   I have never heard more foul language spoken by un licensed hooligans on the air  in my life. I certainly had never heard anything like it in the USA. I would think in the USA a repeater like that would immediately be closed down by the control operators

I know from a local two meter four/forty  repeater and  club that I belong to in New York that they have had from time to time jammers and unlicensed people who have gotten on the repeater who just use curse and swear words.

When this has happened members of the repeater club are instructed to stop using the repeater and wait until the person or persons stop jamming or using vile language. This could take a little time. but usually no longer than a few minutes.

Most of the people that do such a thing crave for attention. Some of them may also be mentally depraved and degenerates as well.


The repeater club does have a special committee who are skilled enough using radio detection finding equipment to trace the location of these people should the condition become acute and the repeater is made inoperable.To the best of my knowledge this has never occurred. I also know that if the condition became alarming the FCC would also be notified and I think under those conditions the FCC would be compelled to investigate and use everything in their disposal to also track down those responsible for doing this, If the person or people are caught their radio equipment would be confiscated and they could be arrested and face a jail sentence and/or a large fine.

I was surprised this did not occur at that time in the UK with the South London repeater.  while i was there i also belonged to the Southfield Radio club in the London area. At one of the scheduled meetings of the radio club the guest speaker was a gentleman from the British equivalent of the FCC. I think it was called OFCOM at the time but i am not certain.


I asked this gentleman why the British authorities did not at the very least close this repeater down and even go after these degenerates and prosecute them. He told me that the OFCOM office in London had only two radio detection vans in the whole city of 8 million people. They only had limited resources . Most of the time they used these vehicles to track down interference to airline traffic or essential radio communications. A lot of the interference at that time to vital radio communications was coming from medical diathermic machines that were causing spurious emissions.

They (OFCOM) new about the situation with this  repeater. They felt at that time if they shut down this repeater the pirates who congregated there would just migrate to other repeaters They also felt there were just too many pirates who used this repeater and they just did not have the manpower and equipment to track down everyone.

From what I have heard this situation with this repeater does not exist today. It is either off the air or the situation went away. I do not know.

However I do not think this situation would have been allowed to exist in the USA.

What they did have in the UK at that time and i do not know if it still exists there is if someone for whatever reason wanted the British equivalent of the FCC to investigate a complaint that did not warrant action on its own such as checking out a station that  they thought was causing interference or even checking out their own station to show thier neighbors they were not causing any interference, they could pay the sum of around $75 to OFCOM and within a reasonable time an OFCOM official would check out their complaint. This was open to anybody in the UK.

I thought this was a great innovation. However it would never occur in the USA. Whether this still occurs in the UK today i do not know.

Now the situation with radio interference or even the use of foul language on HF is different than on VHF-UHF and especially with repeaters. But i also feel very strongly that the role of the FCC over the years in enforcing radio amateur rules and regulations has diminished over the years. It has gotten even worse today now that Riley hollingsworth the FCC chief enforcer for the Radio Amateur licensing division has retired. The woman who replaced him who is not a radio amateur I don't think is up to the task of being the enforcer that he was.

We as radio amateurs rely basically on self enforcement . For the most part it does work and those that don't obey the rules or take advantage of them are few and far between. But I do feel that for those that blatantly violate the rules the FCC should clamp down on them as harted as possible. They should set an example and prosecute these people to the full extent of the law .

We do this in other areas by making examples out of people who blatantly snub there noses at the law. Thus today white collar criminals if caught face a lot more time in jail than they did a few years ago.

Should not the same example be made of those in the USA who blatantly violate the FCC rules and regulations even if it comes to using abusive language.

A few years ago CBS was fined $500000 dollars by the FCC  when the singer Janet Jackson had her dress slip and one of her nipples was showing for a fraction of a second during a superbowl half time performance.

If the FCC could do this for something as innocuous as that shouldn't they be able to punish those who are caught who balatantly violate FCC rules and regulations including those who use repeatedly vile language .


it must be realized in the USA we do have a constitution that guarantees freedom of speech. however that guaranty is not sacrosanct. The US Supreme court determines what speech is correct.



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