When is an f-word uttered on broadcast TV not obscene? Apparently, when it's uttered in passing by a rock star during an acceptance speech at an awards show. So it seemed in a ruling issued Monday by the Federal Communications Commission in response to complaints about last January's Golden Globes, in which Bono described U2's win in the Best Original Song From a Film category as ''f---in' brilliant.''
The Irish singer's enthusiasm over his band's victory (for ''The Hands That Built America,'' from ''Gangs of New York'') didn't provide an obscene context for Bono's ''fleeting and isolated'' use of the curse word, the FCC ruled. ''The word 'f---ing' my be crude and offensive, but, in the context presented here, did not describe sexual or excretory organs or activities," the benchmark for an indecency violation. "Rather, the performer used the word 'f---ing' as an adjective or expletive to emphasize an exclamation. Indeed, in similar circumstances, we have found that offensive language used as an insult rather than as a description of sexual or excretory activities or organs is not within the scope of the commission's prohibition of indecent program content.''
Actually, it wasn't Bono, who's dropped the occasional four-letter word on live awards shows before, who was the target of the FCC probe, but NBC and its affiliate stations that aired the Golden Globes. Most of the more than 200 complaints about the incident were lodged by media watchdog group the Parents Television Council and individuals associated with the PTC, the Associated Press reports.
''It's not shocking to us on the FCC decision because they're a toothless lion,'' said PTC spokesperson Lara Mahaney, who said her group would appeal the ruling. ''They don't take indecency seriously, and that's why you see it proliferating on the broadcast airwaves.'' How about if Bono, after his next awards show appearance, agrees to wash his mouth out with soap?