Explicit rap song finally leads to FCC fine


College radio station accused of violation gets $19,000 reduction of original penalty





WASHINGTON, D.C. – A New York university was issued a $4,200 fine by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for playing a sexually explicit rap song over the airwaves of its student-run radio station.

Officials at the State University of New York at Cortland, embattled in a legal dispute that started in 1992, were ordered to pay the fine after the commission issued their early-August decision.

The fine was actually a substantial decrease from the original $23,750 penalty imposed on the university after the school’s radio station, WSUC, was charged by the commission with broadcasting the song “Yodeling in the Valley.” The song contains lyrics that include descriptions of oral and anal sex and sexual organs.

The FCC was made aware of the incident by an anonymous listener, who claimed the station broadcast the song the afternoon of June 21, 1992. Subsequently, the listener handed over a tape with a recording of the song to the FCC, and the fine was imposed.

Following the allegations, radio and university officials disputed the FCC’s ruling, saying the listener’s claims could not be proven, and that the fine was excessive. Furthermore, school officials argued the person who was logged on the transmitter at the time of the incident was later criminally convicted of committing theft of station equipment and forgery of purchase orders.

The school argued, as stated in the final FCC decision, that the broadcast was isolated and unforeseeable “frolic and detour” by one person. The university also banned the suspect disc jockey from entering the campus on threat of criminal trespass.

“Taking into consideration all the factors of the WSUC broadcast, and the immediate steps taken by college administrators to remedy the instant situation and prevent such problems in the future, we believe a monetary forfeiture in the amount of $4,200 will provide a reasonable yet effective sanction and deterrent,” read the FCC decision.

In order to conduct an investigation into the alleged “Yodeling” broadcast, the university shut down the radio after the broadcast for several days, according to FCC documents.

Under current laws, the FCC can take action against any broadcaster who “utters any obscene, indecent or profane language by means of radio communication.”

The FCC claimed the lyrics fell under the commission’s definition of “indecency,” which includes language or material that describes sexual or excretory activities in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium.

The commission also based the fine on a decision issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, when the court upheld the commission’s authority to restrict the broadcast of indecent material at times when there is a reasonable risk of children in the listening audience. According to the listener, the radio station played the song at about 3 p.m.

The university does not plan to appeal the commission’s ruling said Peter Koryzno, university public relations director.


reports, Winter 1998-99