Viewer complaints have compelled the Federal Communications Commission to review comedian-host Stephen Colbert's profanity-filled attack against President Donald Trump aired nationally on CBS. Such was confirmed by agency chairman Ajit Pai.
Pai said that they are going to take the facts that they will find and will apply the law that has been set out by the Supreme Court and other courts. From there the FCC will take appropriate action. Pai also said that CBS being the broadcaster of Colbert's "The Late Show" could also face a fine.
In spite of receiving strong public backlash, with many Trump supporters calling for an advertisers boycott of Colbert's show, the comedian said he is standing by his May 1 monolog criticizing Trump for cutting short an interview with another CBS journalist. Colbert, however, admitted he should have been less crude. One joke that riled viewers and especially Trump supporters were Colbert's joke suggesting a sexual relationship between the American President and Russian President Vladimir Putin. That tasteless joke drew the most intense flak resulting into calls for #FireColbert that trended on Twitter. Most commenters said the joke was vulgar and homophobic, inviting the ire of the LGBT community as well.
FCC is mandated to regulate programming broadcast on television. Programs like "The Late Show" that air after 10 p.m., however, have looser rules, but they are still prohibited from showing obscene content including overtly sexual, offensive and those that lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.
Pai said that he is committed to enforcing the rules on the books as he is duty-bound to do so, even as he said that First Amendment protections are important.
Pai was appointed by President Trump to the FCC. It is rare for the FCC to take actions against a broadcaster under the rules, but may also depend on the severity of the possible excesses. Any which way Pai and FCC should decide on Colbert's case, what is sure is that viewers have spoken and have called Colbert to task for his vulgarity. What effect that will have on his show's ratings and his acceptability as host, the public will soon find out as the issue develops.