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.)

§516 · March 1, 2005 · Tags: , ·

2 Comments to “Congress shall make no law”

  1. Andy says:

    I felt sorry for this post, with no comments.

    People over-react to the whole censorship debate. They were up in arms on the Kay Hanley message board for weeks after Janet’s “accident,” comparing the whole backlash against it to Nazi book-burning. I have thoughts on that, on the FCC’s role, what constitutes real censorship, opinions on creativity and leaving something to the imagination, a sketchy background in comm-law and some hypotheticals; however I lack the time and inclination to sit at the public liberry and do that.

    But what I will say is that it’s all a tempest in a teapot. There are swings up and down in the measure of society’s tolerances and mores. But overall, we are unquestionably moving to the left and, in my opinion, down, when it comes to the entertainment world.

    Consider that ‘pregnant’ was un-utterable in movies until the 60s. That Yvette Mimieux (wow!) was the first woman to show her bellybutton on network TV, in the late 50s, and then that lovely feature was not seen from any woman on TV again for many years. Now look where we’re at, and how fast that’s happened. (Just today I read that a film with 30 uses of the F-bomb will get a PG-13; that’s unheard of to this date. Read the story on

    Furor over censorship is really not necessary in the big picture, I feel. Society will continue getting looser; we will perhaps always trail continental Europe in our allowances, but then again, perhaps not.

    Maybe the stand of lefties really is on principles of freedom, although with most (not all) I doubt it. They just want their boobies and &*^&@#!s.

    [Edited by the admin to fix errors]

  2. Andy says:

    Somehow I messed up the link anchor. The opening graf was supposed to say I felt sorry since it had no comments yet, linking to my blog and the post about Virginia Mayo.

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