Indecency Complaints

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) does not monitor for indecent material but it does investigate indecency violations after receiving a public complaint.  The FCC mainly receives complaints regarding indecent materials through Unites States mail, E-mail, and facsimile.  These complaints are then staff logged into one of several databases managed by the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau and the Enforcement Bureau.  These databases help the staff of both the organizations trace and share these complaints and subsequently review them.  FCC staff reviews the complaint one by one to determine whether the complaint has met the requirements of a valid complaint.  The FCC’s enforcement bureau then conducts its own indecency analysis.

If the complaint reflects a gross violation, the FCC will send a letter of inquiry (“LOI”) to the broadcaster seeking information regarding the circumstances of the indecent remark or act.  LOI may also require tapes or transcripts of the program at issue from the broadcast station.  If there are insufficient grounds to establish any violations of the statute or FCC rules regarding indecent, obscene, and profane material, then the FCC staff will send the complainant a dismissal letter explaining the deficiencies in the complaint and how to can be reinstated.  In case the complaint is rejected, the complainant has the option of re-filing the complaint with additional information if any, or can file a petition for reconsideration, or file an appeal to the full commission for review.  The FCC will also include a copy of the Indecency Fact Sheet, along with the denial or dismissal of complaint letter, which reviews the FCC’s authority over indecent, profane, or obscene material.

The FCC issues a “Notice of Apparent Liability” (“NAL”), when it finds that the law or commission rules have been violated.  A NAL will only be issued if the FCC determines that the complained materials are indecent, profane or obscene.  After the broadcaster (violator) responds to the NAL, the FCC will either rescind the NAL or issue a forfeiture order.

FCC provides adequate information regarding filing of an indecency complaint.  Accordingly, an indecency complaint can be filed by the following methods:

  1. By electronic complaint form, for broadcast (TV and Radio), cable and satellite issues;
  2. By mail to:FCC Enforcement Bureau,Investigations and Hearings Division, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20554
  3.  By E-mail at fccinfo@fcc.gov
  4.  By calling toll free number 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225- 5322); and
  5.  By faxing complaint to 1-866-418-0232.

The FCC addresses every complaint filed within nine months of its receipt.  When registering a complaint, the complainant is to provide as much information as possible.  Such information include:

  1. the date and time the material was aired;
  2. the call sign, channel, or frequency of the station;
  3. the city and state where the aired program was viewed; and
  4. more possible information about the content of the broadcast

This information helps the FCC to a great extent in determining whether the material was obscene, profane, or indecent.


Inside Indecency Complaints