FCC complaint is at the center of ABC's and Adam Lambert's woes [Updated]
The "FCC heat" comes from a complaint filed by Liberty Counsel on Nov. 24 against ABC, demanding that the network pay a financial penalty "for airing such an outrageously lewd and filthy performance during a show and time period that is targeted for family audiences."
In the complaint, Liberty contends that Lambert's Nov. 22 performance was both obscene and indecent and urges that the FCC take action against ABC. Liberty Counsel is a nonprofit public interest law firm that is closely tied to the late Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University and provides legal assistance in defense of "Christian religious liberty, the sanctity of human life and the traditional family."
Although ABC did receive about 1,500 complaints from viewers about Lambert's highly sexualized performance, dozens of Lambert fans have been complaining about ABC's decision to cancel Lambert's "Good Morning America" interview and now the "Kimmel" performance. Many of those critics say Lambert is being targeted because he is a gay male, as Janet Jackson, who opened the American Music Awards, grabbed the crotch of a male dancer and went unscathed by critics.
The director of cultural affairs for Liberty Counsel told The Times today that his firm was not aware of Jackson's performance.
"The issue is not so much about homosexuality, although I believe the preponderance of Americans find public hyper-sexualized acts of homosexuality particularly off-putting," Matt Barber said. "But the issue was more of indecency and what is decency. And frankly the issue is one of law. We believe this performance met the threshold for violation of federal law and violation of FCC regulations. And the Supreme Court has held time and again that there’s not a First Amendment right to engage in public indecency as evidenced by the outcry and complaints that poured into ABC. We believe that this violated contemporary community standards in terms of what is and what isn’t decent."
But "Kimmel" airs well after 10 p.m., the cut-off time the FCC has set for when indecent material cannot be broadcast. Lambert's AMA appearance occurred at 10:55 p.m. [Updated at 12:51 p.m.: It was edited for the West Coast, but the timing could be an issue in the Central Time Zone, which would have seen it at 9:55 p.m.]
"I would say this is inappropriate period," Barber said. "This is not HBO or some of these cable networks where that type of indecency and filth has come to be expected. This is television where people just flipping through channels could have stumbled onto that. People unaware of what’s coming down the pike in terms of the indecency being performed. And it’s just really, frankly, not appropriate for network television, period, to mimic one man performing oral sex on another man."
ABC executives declined to be interviewed and issued a statement that didn't explain why the network continues to disinvite Lambert from his scheduled appearances: "We decided not to move forward with the booking at this time." Lambert's publicist on Thursday declined a request for an interview with the artist but said, "We respect what [ABC] says."
ABC also canceled Lambert's appearance on "Good Morning America" last week, saying the network was concerned he would give another controversial performance "so early in the morning." During an interview on "The Early Show" on CBS, Lambert conceded the adrenaline got the best of him on stage and the acts in question were not featured in his rehearsals.
Lambert will still appear on ABC's Barbara Walters' "The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2009" on Dec. 9 at 10 p.m. presumably because there is no live performance involved.
-- Maria Elena Fernandez
Photo: Lambert at the AMAs; Credit: Getty Images