Editor’s note: Answer Line was back on assignment this week. Look for new questions and answers next week. In the meantime, enjoy this column from March 2012:
QUESTION: There’s a Dove soap commercial with a lady in her panties and bra. Why is that not considered pornography?
ANSWER: I think perhaps the best way to answer this question is to tell you the definitions the Federal Communications Commission operates under. (This is the government agency that gets involved, for instance, when someone has a “wardrobe malfunction” on live television.) The agency is responsible for enforcing laws in broadcasting about obscenity and indecency — and yes, those are different things.
Here’s what I found on the FCC’s website:
“Obscene” programming is not protected by the First Amendment and cannot be aired at any time, but you can’t insert your own definition of obscenity here. The Supreme Court has taken care of that, with a three-pronged test:
“An average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest (as in a morbid interest in sex);
“The material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law; and
“The material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”
As for indecency, the FCC says it is “language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities.” Also, it does not rise to the level of obscenity, and courts have determined it is protected by the First Amendment and can’t be banned. It is, however, restricted from airing on television and radio between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Profanity — “including language so grossly offensive to members of the public who actually hear it as to amount to a nuisance” — is similarly restricted. Like indecency, profane speech is prohibited on broadcast radio and television between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
(I should note that the FCC says the indecency and profanity prohibitions apply to “conventional broadcast services” and not subscription services such as cable and satellite. The obscene programming prohibition, however, applies across the board.)
To file a complaint about any of these issues, you’ll need to: provide details of what was said or what happened during a broadcast (you could provide a tape or transcript, but it is not required); the date and time of the broadcast; and the call sign, channel or frequency of the station involved.
File your complaint online at www.fcc.gov/complaints, call (888) 225-5322, send a fax to (866) 418-0232 or write to Federal Communications Commission, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division, 445 12th St., SW; Washington, DC 20554.
Q: What is the charge, if any, for tickets to the Academy Awards ceremony? Do the nominees and/or the presenters have to pay?
A: You know how Answer Line has told y’all before that my Hollywood connections aren’t so good? Well, that hasn’t changed, and apparently that’s what I needed to get any real information from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
I tried several times to get information from those Hollywood types, and this is the most I was able to get from them: the Academy Awards are by invitation only.
That said, I found some information online, but mostly from sources for which I can’t vouch. So take these reports for what they’re worth:
- Studios get a specific number of tickets as determined by the Academy;
- People who do get invitations have to sign a contract saying they won’t sell them or give them away;
- Supposedly, there’s a drawing for some tickets given away to us regular folks; and
- Nominees usually get just two tickets.
There’s also a drawing for tickets for the bleacher seats to watch the stars walk the red carpet to the awards show each year. The drawing is based on registration at www.oscars.org sometime before the big event.