It’s bad enough that the trifling half-second of blurry, semi-bare breast during the 2004 Superbowl was enough to stir the nation into an uproar about such things as “decency” on broadcast television. My thoughts in brief are that the entire FCC is unconstitutional to begin with, so both the gov’t and the Parents Television Council (which supplied a whopping 99.8% of the complaints submitted to the FCC in 2003) can go sit and spin.
Despite the creeping prudish atmosphere that rode in on W. Bush’s conservative coattails, America has mostly settled submissively into the idea that there are certain things you can’t say on television. Given that most broadcast media has fallen to a bizarre state of tacky soaps in the morning and tacky sitcoms in the evening, punctuated by dispiriting reality TV for the youngsters, it’s really not so bad. Almost any televised piece with a hint of respectibility either sneaks past the censors or gets played on premium media. That’s why The Sopranos resides on HBO. That’s why Howard Stern is moving to satellite radio. But apparently, keeping “indecency” out of the public square doesn’t go far enough in purging offensive materials from any and all means of communication. At least, not if this prick from Alaska has his way.
“Cable is a much greater violator in the indecency area,” [U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-AK] told the National Association of Broadcasters, which represents most local television affiliates. “I think we have the same power to deal with cable as over-the-air” broadcasters.
Stevens said he disagreed “violently” with assertions by the cable industry that Congress does not have the authority to impose limits on what they air.
I can’t possibly see how this isn’t a blatant violation of the 1st Amendment, but, then, I say the same for the FCC’s very existence. Still, I think most of Congress, even Republicans, who should be against this sort of stringent regulation anyway, will laugh this podunk moralist out of the Capitol. Then again, most of Congress scrambled to increase fine amounts that the FCC can levy against broadcasters who violate our arbitrary indecency standards. Standards that lead to situations like this:
A review of fines levied by other federal agencies suggests that the government may be taking swear words a bit too seriously. If the bill passes the Senate, Bono saying “fucking brilliant” on the air would carry the exact same penalty as illegally testing pesticides on human subjects. And for the price of Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl, you could cause the wrongful death of an elderly patient in a nursing home and still have enough money left to create dangerous mishaps at two nuclear reactors. (Actually, you might be able to afford four “nuke malfunctions”: The biggest fine levied by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last year was only $60,000.)