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FCC Gets Complaints About News Shows That Said ‘Shithole’ on Air

January 12, 2018, 5:59 PM UTC

A handful of people have filed complaints with the Federal Communications Commission against two television networks for using the word “shithole” on the air in reporting about President Trump’s alleged use of the word, Variety reported on Friday.

NBC, owned by Comcast (CMCSA), and Time Warner’s (TWX) CNN both used the word in news broadcasts on Thursday after the president was alleged to have referred to several countries in Latin America and Africa with the derogatory term during a meeting earlier in the day with lawmakers about immigration reform. In a tweet, Trump denied using the word, but Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) who attended the meeting said the president had used it.

CNN used the word repeatedly on the air and in the text scroll at the bottom of its screen. But the FCC’s authority over the use of indecency and profanity does not apply to cable and satellite channels.

NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt said once on air, but he first warned viewers that it was coming, Variety said.

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On its website, the FCC says it can be “difficult” to decide if the law against broadcasting obscene, indecent and profane content on television or radio has been violated.

“Factors in determining how FCC rules apply include the specific nature of the content, the time of day it was broadcast and the context in which the broadcast took place,” the agency notes. “Broadcasting obscene content is prohibited by law at all times of the day. Indecent and profane content are prohibited on broadcast TV and radio between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., when there is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience.”

The FCC can fine TV stations up to $383,038 per incident for obscenity, indecency, or profanity.

In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the FCC could not take action against stations that broadcast a 2003 episode of NYPD Blue that showed an actress’s bare buttocks for seven seconds.