Upton logs 3,000 emails following Janet’s infamous Super Bowl flash
Published 6:05 am Thursday, February 19, 2004
By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Sports fan that he is, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton missed the titillating moment Super Sunday when Justin Timberlake tore off Janet Jackson's top.
Upton was making popcorn.
But he's since gotten plenty of feedback from fed-up constituents.
Upton's son, Stephen, 12, was at a friend's house. Daughter Meg was doing homework after returning from a ski trip. And wife Amey, who is now in seminary school, was writing a paper Feb. 1.
As to why a brief pop-out video on the boob tube exploded into such a long-lasting brouhaha, Upton said it was the last straw on an issue simmering since the 2003 Golden Globe Awards when U2 singer Bono said on live television, "This is really, really f------ brilliant."
In October the FCC's enforcement bureau ruled that Bono's acceptance speech for "The Hands That Built America" from "Gangs of New York," was not indecent or obscene because it "did not describe sexual or excretory organs or activities."
That roused Republicans. On Jan. 13, FCC Chairman Powell demanded the decision be reversed: "I personally believe that this growing coarseness in use of such profanity … is abhorrent and irresponsible."
Powell said at a National Press Club luncheon on Jan. 14, "And it's irresponsible of our programmers to continue to try to push the envelope."
Powell called on Congress to raise obscenity fines on broadcasters to at least 10 times the present maximum of $27,500 per violation.
Upton has been asked whether passage of his bill will necessitate a larger FCC enforcement budget. "Actually, no," he said, "because we're going to raise the fines high enough that no one's going to want to violate that line. We're not going to have the volume of complaints that we've had."
The FCC received 250,000 complaints in 2003 about broadcast indecency, up from 346 in 2001, according to the New York Times.
The FCC "actually had 258 instances to look into with radio and TV because of multiple complaints for the same show, as happened with the Super Bowl. They issued seven judgments and I don't think they've collected any of the money. Thirty of them are still pending."
FCC critics contend that in the name of stewardship of the public airwaves, the agency needs to focus more on media consolidation.
As for Comcast's reported interest in acquiring Disney and its holdings, including ABC and ESPN, Upton pointed out, "the cable and satellite industry is not governed by the FCC," including MSNBC, CNN, CNBC and the History Channel. "None of it is regulated by the FCC because none of it is broadcast over the air."
Upton said in addition to a mention in the Feb. 19 Rolling Stone, he has been interviewed more extensively by the national magazine -- but apparently not extensively enough.
Iowa's rain forest
Upton, who styled himself as a budget hawk upon joining Congress in 1987, expressed dismay at the magnitude of the deficit. "We're going to be working on the budget probably next month. I hope we can bring back line-item veto. I'm distraught to see the $50 million Sen. (Charles) Grassley got in to develop a rain forest in Iowa.
Upton finds it interesting that Democratic frontrunner John F. Kerry, the junior senator from Massachusetts and lieutenant governor under 1988 presidential nominee Michael Dukakis, rates to the left of Teddy Kennedy.
Americans for Democratic Action gave Kerry a 93-percent lifetime rating, compared to Kennedy's score of "only" 88 percent liberal.