Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law

Article Title

Don't Shoot the Speaker: Why Forfeiture Liability for Indecency Violations over Broadcast Media Cannot be Expanded to Cover the Speaker


Kevin Bennardo


The FCC found the broadcast of Bono's use of the "F-word" during the live telecast of the 2002 Golden Globe Award ceremonies violated 18 U.S.C. § 1464.34 Taking for granted that Bono willfully and intentionally uttered the offending word (which could never truly be known--a definite shortcoming of H.R. 310) and the fact that he knew it was being broadcast, he could be fined up to $500,000 under H.R. 310. However, such a result would punish Bono, a private speaker, for merely stating his joy at winning the "Best Song" Golden Globe in a way that is perfectly legal to those present at the International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton. It was NBC and its affiliates that broadcast that message to millions of homes across the country. Even though Bono might have known that would be the final destination of his speech, he was merely speaking to a roomful of people. It was the broadcasters who took that message where it was not permitted.