FCC Unlikely to Sack CBS for Tom Brady's F-Bomb

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Tom Brady during the 2012 Superbowl

Three complaints were filed stating that the Patriots quarterback used indecent language during a telecast, but what he said wasn’t heard on the air

If the Federal Communications Commission pursues action against CBS because New England quarterback Tom Brady appeared to be saying the F-word during a Nov. 30 NFL game broadcast on CBS, it would be unusual — if not unprecedented.

The FCC received three complaints about Brady’s apparent mouthing the indecent language in the game against the Green Bay Packers, which The Smoking Gun uncovered using the Freedom of Information Act request.

In one complaint, a resident of Indianapolis wrote: “My 6-year-old children know how to read lips even if there is no sound. So why during the telecast is CBS going out of their way with 1:53 minutes left … to show Tom Brady screaming the F word on national TV?”

A FCC spokesperson said they do not comment on complaints that have been filed or pending cases.

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There does not appear to be any precedent for the FCC acting to enforce indecency regulations in such a case.

“To the best of my knowledge the FCC has never pursued someone for mouthing a profanity,” says Matthew McCormick, a Washington, D.C., communications attorney with over 35 years experience.

“Whether they might do it,” adds McCormick, “my guess is in this day and age probably not.”

“The way I understand it,” says Robert Com-Reeves, another Washington, D.C. communications attorney, “the law doesn’t apply to mimes.”

“If you look at the letter of the law,” adds Com-Reeves, “it says whoever utters indecent or profane language should be subject to the law. I find it hard to imagine mouth movement without audio would be considered uttering.”

CBS declined to comment. 

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