Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Say What You Want

As a sometime broadcaster, I appreciate our fine U.S. court system ruling which basically states I can say whatever the hell I want. Now it's up to the FCC to fabricate some jacked up reasons why their policy is not "arbitrary and capricious." Of course, FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps said of the ruling, "...any broadcaster who sees this decision as a green light to send more gratuitous sex and violence into our homes would be making a huge mistake."

The funny thing is the FCC had four examples they trotted out before the court, none of which had anything to do with sex or violence. To summarize:

  1. Cher said, "F--- 'em" during a Billboard Music Award show.
  2. Nicole Richie said, "Have you ever tried to get cow s--- out of a Prada purse? It's not so f------ simple" during a different Billboard Music Award show. And to answer your question Nicole, no, I have never tried to get cow s--- out of a Prada purse.
Search as I could the other examples escaped me, although the "fleeting expletive" policy was put in place after Bono blurted out "f------ brilliant" during a 2003 Golden Globes broadcast and Janet Jackson had everyone throwing dollar bills at the screen during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. (In case you were wondering why I am doing t--- and not this, that's a fair question, especially considering no one is going to take me to court and this post being focused on the ability to do just that. I don't see the need to gratuitously throw out expletives, but then again it's not as if y'all can't play Hangman and figure out the letters missing. Personal choice? Slightly different media presentation? When one says these things in print they are not, shall we say, "fleeting." I have no intention of playing censor on this blog, but at the same time we would like to present at least some level of decorum, or at least common sense. I will most likely change the --- to 'uck' and 'hit' when this post hits the archive. Feel free to shred me at will for this meandering explanation...)

I would hazard a guess that close to 90% of the time either "fuck" or "shit" (there!) is used during a broadcast it doesn't have anything to do with sex or violence. One could claim that their use makes you (or your grandma) cringe, but that comes from something inherent in the word itself not some arbitrary contextual meaning. The words are quite versatile and often times it would be near impossible to nail down a specific definition for either. One of the more humorous examples of this is here.

The FCC basically limits its wrath to the big national broadcast companies like NBC, CBS, ABC and so on because, well I'll let FCC Chairman Kevin Martin explain. He finds it "hard to believe that the New York court would tell American families that 'shit' and 'fuck' are fine to say on broadcast television during the hours when children are most likely to be in the audience." And there you have it: protect the children. I forget what age I learned these words, but I guarantee you that quickly thereafter I learned I wasn't throwing out the F-bomb at the dinner table. I distinctly remember my mother lambasting me for using the word 'suck' one day.

And therein lies the crux of the matter. While it may be more difficult nowadays for parents to limit and perhaps monitor the media their children experience, I am more comfortable leaving that task to society at large than the knuckleheads at the FCC. When the public found nasty Miss Jackson's halftime flash a bit too much they complained, fines were issued, and we now have a 7 second delay in the halftime show. The FCC has an important role, but it should be more
reactive then proactive. Advertisers can get corporations to do within a week what would take the Government 4 years. Send your kids to bed before Dallas comes on. Hell, tell 'em to read a book; there's never any profanity in those...

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