Federal Communications Law Journal

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Citation

60 Federal Communications Law Journal 67 (2007)


Indecency regulation has been a hot political and social topic since Janet Jackson revealed her breast during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. The number of indecency complaints the FCC receives each year continues to rise. Moreover, to further complicate matters, in 2007 the Second Circuit overturned the FCC policy that so-called "fleeting expletives" would be considered indecent. However, there has been no systematic review of the complaints from the perspective of the complainant. How has the FCC managed its increasing indecency complaint load, and what does it tell consumers who have taken the time to write formal complaints about what they perceive to be indecent programming? The authors obtained indecency complaints about broadcast programming received and denied by the FCC in 2004 through a Freedom of Information Act request. The nature of the complaint, geographic area, and FCC response were examined from the standpoint of the consumer. The authors make several suggestions to improve the FCC's handling of its increasing load of indecency complaints and its correspondence with the complainants. The authors also take a critical look at activist groups and their effect on the complaint process.