The Federal Communications Commission is investigating two non-commercial Southern California radio stations for allegedly broadcasting obscenities.
An FCC spokeswoman said Wednesday that the commission is investigating written complaints made against KPFK-FM in Los Angeles and KCSB-FM in Santa Barbara.
Both are said to have broadcast programs using language ruled indecent in a celebrated 1978 U.S. Supreme Court case involving comedian George Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words" routine.
FCC spokeswoman Sally Lawrence confirmed Wednesday that the commission's mass media bureau has opened inquiries into the two stations' broadcasts based on separate complaints received from residents of San Bernardino County and Santa Barbara.
Both complaints involve late-night broadcasts. The KPFK complaint relates to the Aug. 31 broadcast of the play "The Jerker," a drama with a homosexual theme, that was broadcast as part of the station's regularly scheduled "I Am, Are You?" program Sundays at 10 p.m.
The KCSB complaint deals with music lyrics broadcast on a regularly scheduled program by the station after 9:30 p.m.
Lawrence said the commission frequently receives complaints about language on broadcasts, but seldom are complaints acted on.
"We rarely get a written complaint citing the (offending) language," Lawrence said.
The stations, she said, have until Oct. 22 to respond to the FCC's inquiries.
KPFK is licensed to the Los Angeles-based Pacifica Foundation, and KCSB is licensed to the University of California at Santa Barbara.
Sharon Maeda, a spokeswoman for Pacifica, said that the nonprofit organization is preparing a response to the FCC's inquiry.
"Our attorneys are looking at it right now," Maeda said.
Pacifica's New York station, she noted, was the defendant in the 1978 Carlin case, which resulted from a father and son hearing a midday broadcast of the comedian's routine. The court noted that the time of day of the Carlin broadcast was a significant factor in its ruling against the station.
Since the Supreme Court ruling, Maeda said, Pacifica has "been very mindful of what the FCC allows" and what parts of the day potentially offensive material is broadcast.
"We have not stopped using certain words," she noted.