WASHINGTON — A Colorado radio station has been slapped by the feds with a $7,000 indecency fine for playing Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady,” even though the provocative and raunchy ditty was edited for the airwaves.
The Federal Communications Commission’s June 1 order is sure to spark alarm among program directors, who generally assume that a label’s edited version provides immunity from obscenity and indecency rules.
In the case of KKMG-FM in Colorado Springs, the FCC said the station must be brought to bear for playing the Eminem tune, even if the version played was toned down for air.
Citadel Communications, parent company of KKMG, told the FCC that the station was not in violation of any rule, since various expletives were deleted in the edited version provided by Interscope Records.
Not good enough, according to the FCC.
“The edited version of the song contains unmistakable offensive sexual references. In this regard, portions of the lyrics contain sexual references in conjunction with sexual expletives that appear intended to pander and shock,” the FCC said.
Fine comes less than two months after the FCC issued new guidelines to be used when determining what is obscene and indecent. New guidelines made it clear that innuendo is a factor, even if specific expletives are missing.
Indecency has long been defined by the FCC as broadcast programming that describes or depicts sexual or excretory organs or activities. Agency is allowed to take complaints from the public on indecent material and act upon them, albeit with restrictions as it’s still protected speech under the First Amendment.
Recording Industry Assn. of America topper Hilary Rosen asserted that the airing of the “Slim Shady” radio edit falls squarely under that protection.
“It would be a disgrace if the FCC were to impose a violation on a radio station because they didn’t like the ‘suggestive’ nature of a song.” Rosen told Daily Variety. “That goes right to the heart of idea-based censorship.”
The FCC’s ban on patently offensive broadcasts runs from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., the hours when kids are most likely to be tuning in.
Citadel made no excuses for repeatedly playing the edited song throughout the summer and spring of 2000, at all hours.
The track in question, actually one of the tamest offerings on the “Marshal Mathers LP,” Eminem’s latest Interscope release, nonetheless includes numerous references to acts of violent misogyny and graphic sex.
Wiley, Rein & Fielding attorney Kathleen Kirby, who represents Citadel, said the $7,000 fine could set a risky precedent for the countless other radio stations across the country which have played the same edited Eminem song.
“The danger involved is that folks at the station level can’t take comfort in the fact that something labeled ‘radio edit version’ is in compliance with the FCC’s rules,” Kirby said.
Interscope reps were not available for comment.
(Justin Oppelaar in New York contributed to this report.)