Además el cambio ca, además de que es lo mismo.

Five years ago I was quoted in an article in Billboard about whether Spanish-language broadcasters get a pass when it comes to enforcement of the FCC’s indecency rules. Several English-language broadcasters – including Howard Stern (who quoted me on the air) – have frequently complained that the FCC does not enforce the rules equally.  Suspected reasons for the disparity: fewer complaints get filed against Spanish language programs, and the Spanish-speaking staff at the FCC has traditionally been undermanned. 

Now a couple of groups are looking to change the first of those possible reasons.

The National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) have filed a complaint (173 pages in all, including extensive attachments) with the FCC against a TV station in the Los Angeles area. The focus of their complaint: the Spanish-language television talk show “José Luis Sin Censura” (translation: “José Luis Uncensored”).

According to NHMC and GLAAD, over 20 episodes of the show that aired between June-December of last year contained images and language that were indecent and that would have been routinely edited out of English-language broadcasts.   The complaint alleges the repeated use of sexually-oriented terms such as “pinche” and “culero”, along with anti-gay epithets (“maricón”, “joto”, “puñal”) and anti-Latino slurs (e.g., “mojado”). Presumably recognizing the likelihood that the FCC may not be familiar with Spanish pejoratives, the complainants have included a “Note on Translation” in which they provide the approximate English equivalents. (“Pinche” is said to be “roughly equivalent” to “fucking”; “culero” means “assfucker”; “maricón”, “joto” and “puñal” are derogatory terms for gay people, akin to “faggot”; “mojado” refers to “wetback”.) 

They’ve also posted a collection of examples (including a number of NSFW items, such as semi-clad women) demonstrating their point on YouTube.

In recent years the NHMC – a non-profit, media advocacy organization aimed at improving the image of Latinos in the media – has been increasingly active in filing complaints against what it perceives to be offensive content on the airwaves.  Two years ago it asked the Commission to investigate the use of “hate speech”, and particularly such speech directed against Latinos, on the airwaves.    For its part, GLAAD – an organization aimed at promoting understanding, increases acceptance, and advancing equality for the LGBT community – has been working against the “José Luis Sin Censura” show for years. It claims that its efforts have prompted a number of prominent sponsors to pull their advertising.

The latest complaint echoes the charges that were raised in the 2006 Billboard article, namely that the FCC does not enforce indecency rules again Spanish and other foreign language broadcast stations in the same way that it does against English language stations.  In fact, the complaint quotes from (and attaches a copy of) the 2006 Billboard article. It will be interesting to see whether the Commission’s reaction does anything to alter the perception that, for whatever reason, its indecency enforcement activities have historically reflected some cultural bias. 

Language and cultural differences aside, though, the complainants may run into a different problem. The claims that NHMC and GLAAD are advancing accuse the TV licensee of broadcasting indecency. But the Commission’s ability to regulate indecency has been shaken by a couple of court cases, as my blogging colleagues have chronicled (here, for example, and here). So even if the FCC would like to demonstrate conclusively that it is an equal opportunity indecency enforcer, it may find itself without the ability to do so. Stay tuned.