Movies have the Motion Pictures Association's ratings board. Music has Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center, which slapped those annoying "Parental Warning" labels on any CD that showed a tablespoon of bad taste. Internet porn has, well, nothing's really been able to stop that, but give them time.
Television, of course, has the Parents Television Council, a crusading group of vigilant moms and dads who watch every last inch of TV and write miles-long letters to the FCC demanding action against the slightest bit of skin or the utterance of any kind of bad word. These days, however, that the PTC is in some dire straights and if someone doesn't so something soon, they could just disappear into the wind (please, don't everybody get up at once ... no seriously, don't).
After celebrities like Nicole Richie, Cher and Bono swore during award shows in 2002 and 2003, the FCC ruled in 2004 that television networks can be fined for those instances when such off-the-cuff expletives are broadcast. Last month, a New York appeals court threw out the organization's rules, saying they were unenforceable because they were so "unconstitutionally vague and chilling."
But, as expected, the FCC has appealed the decision made by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
The long-term trend on network TV may be toward more risqué programming, but in the short term, nothing much will change. The same kabuki act we've witnessed for decades -- with activists making hay out of censorship battles, the FCC trying to stem the tide of indecency, the courts trying to stay out of the whole mess, and the networks ever so slowly pushing the content envelope toward what's allowed on cable -- will continue as before, with everyone playing their appointed roles.
This ruling was in response to cases of "fleeting" expletives or incidents, like the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction or Bono uttering the f-word at the Golden Globes; the court felt that there "is ample evidence in the record that the FCC's indecency policy has chilled protected speech."
But the impact of this ruling will reverberate much more than you think; the court threw out the entire set of indecency rules the FCC had been using since 1978, after a radio station played George Carlin's 'Seven Dirty Words' routine on the air. The court just felt that it didn't pass constitutional muster that, for instance, the commission could judge that the use of 'bulls--t' in an 'NYPD Blue' episode was indecent, but the use of 'd--k' and 'd--khead' were not.
Of course, most people who have never been a fan of the commission's random indecency rules could have told you that years ago. But the big question now is: what does this mean for the broadcast networks?
That answer seems pretty easy: Until the FCC can come up with an indecency policy that can be deemed constitutional, the broadcast networks are likely going to use this opportunity to push the envelope even further than they do now, especially after 10PM.
Remember when 'The Simpsons' was the most controversial show on television? Now it seems tame by comparison to a plethora of others. Of course, now 'Family Guy' will set the standard for the future in terms of crudeness.
Mind you, the FCC only investigates complaints about network channels (the ones that can be seen for free). So programs like 'South Park' and 'Jersey Shore' are safe ... for now.
And what sort of depraved and immoral activities will the animated sitcom of the future hold? Will it have baby eating? Sex with vegetables? Politics? Whatever the lowest common denominator program of the future is, the only guarantee that can be certain in the future is that it will be shown on Fox.
In 2008, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia had thrown out a $550,000 fine that the FCC had levied against CBS for airing Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction," in which part of the singer's breast was flashed at the end of a musical performance with Justin Timberlake during 2004's Super Bowl halftime show.
Questions arose several months ago about FOX's new game show 'Our Little Genius.' At first it seemed like the show was just going to reshoot the first episodes because there might have been a problem with contestants hearing the answers to the questions (or at least in the way the young kids were coached). Then the show was put on the shelf completely.
Now the FCC is investigating the matter. According to The Los Angeles Times, the father of one of the contestants tipped off the FCC about how producer Mark Burnett and his staff were running the show. One of the aspects of the show was that, at the very least, the kids knew what topics the questions would cover.
This would be dumb on so many levels. One, we don't need game shows/reality shows to be rigged or even slightly tampered with (for obvious reasons), and two, it involved kids aged six to twelve. Gah. I wonder if this could lead to investigations of other reality and/or game shows?
Today, Adam tweeted that ABC had cancelled two more spots on the network -- his upcoming Jimmy Kimmel Live! date and a New Year's Eve performance. Adam added that nobody should blame ABC for the cancellations because it was pressure from the FCC that prompted ABC's action. So maybe we should really be blaming Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake for the infamous Super Bowl breast/costume malfunction? ABC previously dumped Adam from Good Morning America.
Here's something. Survivor: Cook Islands winner Yul Kwon is joining the FCC. He has been named deputy chief of the consumer and governmental affairs bureau for the FCC.
That's the Federal Communications Commission. Chairman Julius Genachowski made the appointment, and it wasn't because Yul did well in challenges.
They are filing another complaint with the FCC, this time over last Sunday's episode of the cartoon that featured (from the PTC complaint) "bestiality, orgies, and babies eating sperm." By sheer coincidence, this was the same plot as the latest episode of The Hills.
Actually, I was kinda shocked by the episode myself, but I'm always shocked by episodes of Family Guy. That's what makes it funny.
I don't watch the show. I hope the contestants get as healthy as they need to be but I don't really want to watch a reality show where people lose weight. But I kinda wish I had seen last night's episode because it appears that someone said the F word, and NBC didn't even bleep it.
It occurred when the Green Team's Tara looked at the wall of keys (I have no idea what that sentence means) and said "I don't f***ing know." For some reason, NBC let it slide. And this is on an 8pm show (not that they would have been allowed to do it 9pm, but it just really sticks out in the family hour).
The Obama transition team is asking Congress to extend the deadline because the way the transition has been handled hasn't been the smoothest: there's been a problem with the coupons that the government is giving out so people can get a converter box, the education on the new technology has been inadequate, and the government doesn't have the funds to make the current date a reality. Consumers unions are also asking for the date to be extended.
My sister asked me if I was ready for the digital transition, and I told her that I've been ready for years. Then I met someone last week who says she still has a small portable TV with rabbit ears. Are you ready for the change?
The television networks (and, by extension, the cable companies) and the MPAA have been in bed with each other since the word "television" entered our lexicon. I learned in a marketing class that the majority of advertisements for any movie are found on television and they tend to be broadcast on Thursday nights when people are deciding what to do with their weekend.
Let the Digital Television Revolution begin! Oh, wait, millions of us have converted to digital cable boxes already. Let me try this again. Let the Government-Enforced Digital Television Revolution begin! Okay, much better.
In order to test out the conversion of all media outlets and consumer televisions to digital service by February 17th, 2009, Wilmington, North Carolina decided to beat everyone to the punch and perform the conversion early. So, at noon on Monday, Wilmington mayor Bill Saffo and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin pulled a huge, symbolic power switch to convert all of the city from analog to digital broadcasts. Of course, things went off without a hitch. Uh-huh. And, Platyrrhini Cebidae soar out of my tushie!
Not long after the cut-over broadcasters in the area reported dozens of calls from residents within the city limits and surrounding counties who either weren't prepared for the conversion or couldn't get their brand-new digital-converter boxes to work with their old analog sets. Both the networks and the FCC knew that this would happen and expected to receive calls over the next few weeks from the 14,000 households who received their signals from over-the-air broadcasting.
I remember watching the halftime show of the 2004 Super Bowl and seeing Janet Jackson's nipple at the end of her duet with Justin Timberlake. I couldn't believe what I had just seen and I knew it was going to be a big thing. Of course, no one knew at the time just how big it was going to become. It actually changed the way TV shows are presented now.
But here's some good news for logic: a federal appeals court has thrown out the $550,000 fine that the FCC gave CBS for broadcasting the football boob scene. In the ruling the court said the FCC acted "arbitrarily and capriciously" when they handed out the fine.
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