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FCC complaint is at the center of ABC's and Adam Lambert's woes [Updated]

Getprev Adam Lambert's urging to fans not to be upset with ABC for canceling his upcoming appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" is making more sense today. On his Twitter page Wednesday night, Lambert explained "It's the FCC heat," a statement that ABC has declined to address.

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


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Lambert's album benefits from controversy

Comments () | Archives (94)

This LIBERTY COUNSEL - what a bunch of narrow-minded bigoted hypocrites! And that's being nice....... They say "it's not so much about homosexuality" and than later say "not appropriate for network television, period, to mimic one man performing oral sex on another man."

And they completely ignore the other similar acts in the show.
CLEARLY HOMOPHOBIC. This should become a major civil rights issue.

And they say that they defend liberty - good grief I suppose like in Alice in Wonderland 'liberty' - “A Word Means What I Say it Means; no More, no Less”: The Red Queen

This whole uproar stinks of unfair and prejudiced judgement. It's been said already, but this definitely wouldn't be happening if a female had done the exact same performance. To me it was more predictable than shocking. He may have pushed the limits a bit, but in an endearing way...like any young performer imitating moves from an idol, then going a little overboard. Liberty house was not aware of Janet Jackson's performance...living under a rock? Liberty? for whom?

I think the FCC isn't much different that the Liberty Counsel. The five members may have a majority of conservatives who don't mind women kissing, women performing oral sex and grabbing men while scantily clad. They all seemed to have missed the entire performance that night as well as past performances by mainly women who participate in obscenity but happened to catch Adam. This is very much because of his sexuality and nothing else. The LC sounds too much like Westboro Bapist who followed Adam around during the idol tour to preach against his homosexuality. I will support everything Adam. I will go to his concerts and I will watch other stations who have him on. ABC you are no longer a viewing channel. I used to like you but you are homophobic and to hypocritical for my taste. The L C can fight and file reports all they want but us fans are going to keep supporting Adam. GOT IT!!! The heck with you double standards.

Liberty Council has a history of making nuisance complaints - these are the people that were saying the purple telletubbie was promoting homosexuallity. But none the less once a complaint is made it has to be reviewed.

ABC is running scared because the FCC is still investigating the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction. Delay technology has been an industry standard for many years and was used in the Pink incident. ABC did not utilize industry standards. It is their responsibility ultimately as to what gets broadcast. They made an attempt but they blocked the audio and not the video. It seems to me like someone is scrambling to try and save their place. It could be argued that ABC knew and approved of Adam Lambert's performance because of the way it was promoted at every commercial. Liberty is siting obscenity as well as indecency. According to the FCC's own definitions, their intent is for hardcore pornography - which wasn't the case.

When they cancelled GMA they said that Lambert had proved to be unpredictable on live tv. I disagree but I can see their point. Lambert has appeared on three different shows without incident since then. Cancelling the other appearances just doesn't make sense.

Someone mentioned Madonna's performances. SHe got a lot of flack at the time, but the laws were not in place at the time to the extent that they are now. Anyone remember the witch hunt the FCC had over Howard Stern before he went to satelite?

Did ABC ever explain why Chris Brown, who likes to beat up women, (don't care if he's apologized), is going to be interviewed on GMA instead?

I am a Christian....a REAL Christian. Please don't judge real Christians by the acts of a few like this. I'm also a huge fan of Adam Lambert. I think fair is fair. He should not be singled out from all the other violent and sexual performances that occurred during the AMA's. The only difference is he is a gay man. This IS discrimination.

I am not a conservative and not generally aligned with Liberty Counsel. But I did find that performance poorly sung, outrageous and lewd. I think it comes across as trash because it was neither artistic nor great, and the performer has no established reputation for artistic excellence. It is also disturbing that Adam did it unrehearsed, without prior knowledge of the backup dancer and musician. He was disrespectful of his backup performers and disrespectful of the audience. I am surprised he & ABC did not also get sued by the backup performers involved for assault.

This is really getting ridiculous. The liberty council is against gays to begin with, since they fight for the "traditional family". Give me a break. I am a mother of 3, and I monitor what my kids watch. No way were my kids up watching the awards, but I did dvr it so if I thought it was appropriate they could. Parents need to take what their children watch into their own hands, and not want to censor others. I hope Adam has a huge career ahead of him, because I believe he is a talented AND good human being. Get off your high horse already "liberty council"

A HATE CRIME is being perpetrated by the Liberty Counsel, and ABC and the FCC are complicit.

This is bigotry. It's time for all Americans to recognize that gay rights are human rights!!!

ABC and Disney: There is a fine line between 'decent' and 'indecent' and gray areas are perceived through the eye of the beholder. No one has said 'who asked or decided' that Adam would sing "For Your Entertainment" as the song choice for the AMAs. That's the first issue.

Secondly, had the song been better known, and the lyrics familiar to many, the viewers would have realised what the song was about and realised he was just 'acting out the lyrics' -- think 'gender neutral' for the moment.

Older readers will remember old Broadway musicals-turned-movies of "Sweet Charity", "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas", and old Vaudeville-style silly skits from Benny Hill, Monty Python, and without researching - I think it was even early Milton Berle (?) that there was a lot of silly sexual innuendos happening. Go even earlier to Shakespeare skits in Shakespearean comedies - and in Shakespeare's day the men played women's roles - and there are many silly sexual innuendos, and men kissing men, lifting up men's skirts, implied oral plays, etc.

Then, consider that the U.S., other than Muslim nations is probably the most-uptight nation in the world about this sort of thing.

I value ABC, and respect it and Disney, but common' lighten up, please. Adam is so talented...why try to ruin his career? Can't you just bring him and his packagers in for some career 'guidance' sessions or add an addendum to your contracts that insists on that song, or similar, not being performed on ABC shows - or any sexual type acting out?

But if you do, please add the women to the restriction, too. A standard is a standard. The standard shouldn't just exist for gay men.

Lastly, a word of caution from someone who cares, take a moment and think about all the gay men in the Hollywood tv and film industry, all the powerful decision makers, realise everything good that they have contributed to the US film and tv culture, then think about whether you really want to have them turn away from ABC. All those gay men? They have a lot of straight friends who know how to flip the tv remote to NBC, CBS, or one of the cable networks. Can ABC survive on only the vote of children who should be in bed by 11pm on a school night, or the "morality-pushing" minority? It's choices. My vote - just add an addendum to your contracts with Adam.

Then, 'kiss and make up'.


Everyone should check out 2:20 of this video.


This is beyond ridiculous. If Liberty Counsel is going after Adam for indecency, then they should be consistent and go after most of the performers that night. Adam's performance wasn't anymore indecent than most of the other performances. His moment just happened to be male on male, so suddenly it's a problem. And why didn't Libery Counsel complain when 'Dancing with the Stars' showed an obvious simulated blowjob during one of their performances? Oh, that's right. It's because it was between a heterosexual couple. And where was their outrage when Pink performed almost the same act as Adam Lambert on the Billboard Music Awards a few years ago. Liberty Counsel should just come clean and be honest: this isn't about indecency; it's about homophobia and discrimination. Hopefully this will blow over soon, and Adam and ABC can get on with their lives.

So why didn't ABC use the 7 second delay during Adam's performance? To my knowledge, stations have anywhere from 5 to 14 second delays to avoid things like someone accidently swearing, or in Adam's case what they are calling a sexual performance.
ABC said they cancelled his Good Morning America appearance because they said it was "obvious he could not be trusted on live tv." However, he had been a guest on their show in August and was fine. So Adam has been punished for one performance? The majority of that AMA show reeked of adult content. The clothing, the song lyrics, and the barely dressed women was all centred around adult viewing.
Adam will get through this with the love of his fans. We know his musical talent and believe him when he said he is sorry for anyone that felt disrespected. He got carried away, he said it was a one-time thing. The best way you can show your support for Adamis to download his music on iTunes or buy his CD.

Barber: "And it’s just really, frankly, not appropriate for network television, period, to mimic one man performing oral sex on another man." "The director of cultural affairs for Liberty Counsel told The Times today that his firm was not aware of Jackson's performance."

This, to me, means that they WERE NOT just casual viewers of an awards show that happened to view an off-putting performance and felt so moved to complain to the network presenting it. This appears to be a pre-meditated attack on homosexuality in general, with their unwitting poster-child, Adam Lambert, as a cover for the so-called "outrage" and an example of all that's wrong with society - HOMOSEXUALS!!!

It's OBVIOUS that members of this group watched the AMAs ONLY to scrutinize Adam Lambert's performance. It's clear that they were going to complain about his performance no matter what he did or didn't do. It's just unfortunate that Adam gave them some gasoline to go along with their matches and logs. If Adam ONLY walked, skipped, hopped, jumped and occassionally wiggled accross the stage, I'm sure that all of those no-frills actions would somehow be made litigious crimes of some sort.

I hope ABC wises up and sees this lawsuit for what it really is and hopefully counter their suit with one of their own towards them. Unless they have some execs there who sympathize with the complainants! I am a straight woman, wife and mother who can be considered a "soccer mom". I WAS shocked at Adam's performance, but NEVER outraged! He was definitely the most entertaining performance of the night and I'm glad I saw it. My kids didn't however. They were in bed!

ABC is going out of their way to hurt, humiliate and destroy the best male artist the US has produced in a generation or two. As of yesterday, ABC and their various affiliates have been blocked via the DVR in my house and as much as I enjoyed some of Disney's movies, I will not be spending my hard-earned dollars on anything remotely connected to Disney/ABC or their sponsors. As far as the FCC complaint - ABC has some of the best legal minds in their employment (both in-house and external) and to be "held hostage" by the FCC is not even a valid excuse. The same Liberty Counsel has done enough damage already (http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2009/06/liberty_counsel_take_kids_away.php; http://www.southernstudies.org/2009/08/the-far-right-religious-group-behind-the-outrageous-health-care-reform-lies.html) that we, the taxpayers, should do something and stop the welfare payments to the rednecks in certain states of the US. Then maybe they'll start working- instead of devoting their pitiful excuse for existence to hatred.

What is even scarier is that these so called Christians are so full of hate for homosexuals and that some of them even believe that homosexuality is a sin. The only sin is the hatred these people spew towards homosexuality.

Yes of course ABC is forging ahead with the Chris Brown interview and even promoting his career by letting him perform. But Adam gets axed again. Such hypocrisy!

Oh please, everybody knows that the Liberty Counsel is just stirring up the pot just like they did when Faldwell accused the purple teletubbie of being gay. Their complaint has not legal merit and they don't have a leg leg to stand on. ABC is merely hiding behind that to do what ever they want and to wage a seemingly personal vendetta against Adam IMO.

This article seems incomplete to me. I spent last night updating all the information on this matter and while Liberty Counsel may claim to have got something out of the FCC,no one has produced a single piece of paper indicating the FCC has responded to them. I have submitted a request to the FCC for up-to-date information on this submission and the FCC's position. There is no point in blaming even a government institution if there is no evidence that they have actually taken any action. Who is "Barber"?

My complete and detailed report is available here for anyone who would like more information.

I include links to the actual letter from Liberty Counsel, so you don't have take someone's word for what it contains, and other pertinent information.

If anyone has a copy of 1. a media release from ABC which explains in writing their reasons or 2. a copy of a document from the FCC, please post somewhere where I can find it. We don't actually have any idea as to why ABC has decided to cancel Adam's performances on Kimmel and NYE. I'm curious.

Thank you

Maybe Adam was over the top but this and similar groups of homophobic madmen and women have been trying to hang Lambert ever since Idol. Wasting the time that they could be doing good for their fellow man preaching that to vote for Adam Lambert on American Idol was a sin and sending protesters to the Idol Live contest.

And wasn't it this same group with Jerry Farwell that wanted to boycott Disney for allowing same sex partner benefits to employees.

Shame on you ABC! Barbara Walters can talk about an affair with a married man (which I find offensive) but you want to hang this young man.

EM, you said it the best and in a fashion that should be listened to. I hate this, it is ridiculous. Why is a Christian organization (excuse me, if I get it wrong)telling us what is right and what is wrong to watch. I agree about the 1500 calls to ABC, that is so small considering the audience that was watching. There where more angry calls about ABC canceling Adam, than complaining, about the AMA's.
If you doubt me go get the album it's called "For Your Entertainment". Them come back and tell what you here !!

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