SAN MATEO — The College of San Mateo's KCSM-TV plans to appeal a proposed $15,000 fine from the Federal Communications Commission for obscenities uttered in a 2004 documentary film.

The San Mateo County Community College District Board of Trustees unanimously voted at its Wednesday meeting to contest the fine in response to the FCC's announcement of action against the station last week.

The Board also accepted a Washington, D.C., law firm's offer to represent the college district to the FCC and, if necessary, in the courts, on a pro bono basis, according to district spokeswoman Barbara Christensen.

The FCC reccommended to fine the nonprofit education station in response to the PBS documentary "The Blues: Godfathers and Sons," chronicling the modern-day Chicago blues scene.

Subjects utter the f-word, s-word and variants repeatedly in the film, which KCSM-TV aired on March 11, 2004 before 10 p.m. The FCC has different considerations for material that could be considered obscene after 10 p.m., when younger viewers are expected to be in bed.

Though the FCC deems the language indecent, the station contends it contributed to the educational experience of the documentary. The subjects were using their own words, providing a window into their world.

"We don't believe that the FCC took into account prior precedent set by them in our case — how the language was used in context," KCSM-TV General Manager Marilyn Lawrence said Thursday.


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The station has until April 14 to file its appeal with the FCC, after which the agency will decide whether the fine will stand.

Read the FCC notice at http://www.fcc.gov. Learn more about KCSM-TV at http://www.kcsm.org.

Contact staff writer Malaika Fraley at (650) 306-2425 or by e-mail at mfraley@sanmateocountytimes.com.