The return of the undead FCC rumor

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Madalyn Murray O'Hair has been dead since 1995, but according to a forwarded e-mail I received tonight, her mortal remains are still busy petitioning the FCC to ban all religious broadcasting from the American airwaves.

This is the latest go-round of a 30-year-old rumor that Focus on the Family's CitizenLink calls "The Christian Broadcasting Hoax That Just Won't Die."

Experts are still trying to dispel the irrepressible O'Hair-FCC rumor.

Chances are, at some point, you will likely receive an e-mail, typically forwarded from "a friend of a friend of a friend," which discusses supposed efforts by the infamous atheist, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, to get the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to kick Christian broadcasting off the air. Sometimes the e-mail even lists Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson -- linking him to a supposed effort to fight this "threat."

Be advised: This is a false report! Do not pay attention! Do not forward this hoax!

There's a teeny-tiny grain of truth to the story:

The FCC did receive a petition in 1974, designated RM-2493, asking the agency to look into the operating practices of religious organizations licensed to broadcast on TV.

The FCC rejected the petition in 1975.

"We denied it outright," said David Fiske, deputy communications director for the FCC. "There was never any proceeding; there was not a comment period; there were never any hearings, there was absolutely nothing."

Interestingly, O'Hair had absolutely nothing to do with that short-lived petition -- and she certainly couldn't be involved in any action today, even if there was one, which there isn't.

The FCC does not have before it any proposal to deny licenses to religious broadcasters.

"This rumor is totally false on about three or four different counts," Fiske said. "It has popped up from time to time, in various forms, since 1975."

Here's the official FCC statement on the rumors.

Folks, anytime you get a forward of a forwarded e-mail describing some outrage and a need to take action immediately -- "Contact your congressman!!!! And forward this to everyone you know!!!1!!" -- there's a very good chance it's yet another hoax. Do some research before you forward it to others.

When such a message lands in my inbox, I go to snopes.com -- a site dedicated to researching "urban legends," forwarded e-mails, and other dubious rumors -- and I do a search on some of the key words and phrases in the message. Almost always, snopes.com has the definitive answer, including links to authoritative information.

snopes.com has a special section called "Inboxer Rebellion" devoted to forwarded e-mails. Here's the intro to the section:

Every day we're bombarded with e-mail of dubious origin and even more dubious veracity: messages that plead with us to find a missing kid or help a sick child, sign a petition to right some terrible injustice, take a stand on an important piece of pending legislation, forward a message to claim free merchandise, or take heed of the latest computer virus. The messages that aren't outright hoaxes are often full of misinformation, and even the ones that have some truth to them are usually out-of-date by the time we receive them.

A browse through "Inboxer Rebellion" will immunize you to most of the hoaxes and outdated or distorted stories that land in your own inbox, and you'll be able to educate the friends and loved ones who, from the very best of intentions, forward inaccurate information.

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2 Comments

meeciteewurkor said:

ah, not all of 'em are fake. I actually got a thousand dollars from Bill Gates!

:)

Joe Duffy said:

In 2011, I plan to publish:

"The Atheist Threat to Christian Broadcasting: The Definitive History of the Religious Broadcasting Rumor and Petition RM-2493."

The book will be about 145 Pages, 260+ Footnotes, Many Photographs & Documents reproduced, Artistic Illustrations, and Extensive Bibliography.

This book will explain the rich history and development of this persistent rumor, and nothing this comprehensive has ever been written before.

Contact me if you are interested in notification upon publication.

Sincerely, Joe Duffy
Beverly Hills, California

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 20, 2007 1:06 AM.

Whirled editorial board: "We're too dense to understand this idea, much less write a joke about it." was the previous entry in this blog.

Civic literacy quiz is the next entry in this blog.

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