Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cover Your Eyes, Kids...and Your Ears Too

If you were looking for another reason to get rid of your television, the US Supreme Court may be giving it to you soon.  This week, the high court heard arguments in a case that would strip the Federal Communications Commission of the power to regulate over-the-air networks when it comes to issues of indecency.  The case stems from fines the FCC handed down to Fox Television for profanities uttered by celebrities on some made-up awards show.  Fox believes the days of banning George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can't Say On Television" are over--along with the ban on nudity.

Fox argues that the FCC has been inconsistent in the way it deals with such "taboos"--allowing Bono of U2 to drop the "s-word" in a live broadcast--and allowing ABC to show frontal nudity as part of its airing of Schindler's List in prime time--but leveling fines against them for the "f-bomb" and against CBS for Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" in the Super Bowl.  Fox believes the networks themselves should be allowed to decide what is and is not suitable for broadcast.

Let's be honest, the "broadcast standards" have been lowered for years now.  In fact, two of Carlin's original 7 Dirty Words are now used in prime time fairly regularly (piss and shit).  And both male and female body parts have been displayed on shows like NYPD Blue.  Of course, at one time, even married characters had to sleep in seperate beds--and you couldn't show a toilet in a bathroom.

The only issue I have with the networks going "uncensored" is that their arguments aren't about "freedom of speech" or "artistic liberty"--they are about ratings.  You'll notice the big hits on TV today: "Mad Men", "Walking Dead" and "Entourage" are all on cable--with its already relaxed standards on profanity and sexuality.  The folks at Fox, NBC, ABC and CBS think that their shows are being hurt because their characters still have to say "gosh dang it" and "phooey"--while keeping their underwear on.  But, if you were able to tease a topless scene involving a certain actress on "Modern Family" or a bottomless scene involving a certain detective on "Castle"--you could expect a huge ratings. 

But only for that first time.  Once people get accustomed to seeing that type of thing wears off, the novelty factor is lost and rating go right back to what they once where.  In the meantime, kids tuning in get a real "education" their parents may not want them to have at the age of six.  If you want a perfect example, watch the "South Park" episode where they use the "s-word" 200-times in a half-hour show.  It's humorous the first five or six times--but by the end of the show you wish that you would never hear the word again.  And ironically, that is exactly the point the writers were trying to get across.

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