Here is an excerpt from Boston NPR News Station WBUR, responding to the Federal Communications Commission’s request for feedback on its indecency rules. The station supports NPR’s position that the rules should be enforced only in “egregious” cases”:
“Sometimes WBUR’s service to the community produces potential indecency violations under the Commission’s current ‘zero tolerance’ approach. Our coverage of the traumatic attack of the Boston Marathon and its aftermath over an entire week included scores of hours of live continuous coverage of this important story. In the chaos that ensued after the attacks and the subsequent manhunt which resulted in an unprecedented lockdown of most of the cities of Boston and Watertown and surrounding areas, the potential for inadvertent indecent language was always present. It was virtually impossible to report on this unfolding story without the real danger of profanity ending up on our air.”
But massive forfeiture amounts and inconsistent application of the current indecency policy by the Commission have created an atmosphere of uncertainty that requires WBUR to pursue our brand of public service journalism at great risk. This interferes with the editorial judgment of WBUR’s programming staff, and affects the programs we put on the air. Whether it is live breaking coverage or live regularly scheduled programs, we must constantly weigh the value of creatively covering our communities culture and civil events against the dangers inherent and the costs involved in fines or forfeitures. Recently, we decided no longer to carry a live public event with some of the most distinguished thinkers in Boston because of the dangers of fines if profanity crept into any of the presentations.”
Further reading: Paul Riismandel did a great piece in Radio World on how commercial radio outlets covered the Boston Marthon bombing.