Broadcasters. We are such a dirty, foul-mouthed, obscene lot.
At least that's what you'd think by some of the news lately. It seems to have started with shock jock Howard Stern. Long known for pornographic radio (if that's possible) and foul language, Stern has always been in the sights of indecency groups and the FCC.
Following in his steps is the duo Opie and Anthony. They managed to cram more sex talk into radio, and a local church, than anyone thought possible. The FCC has reviewed and fined both radio shows. In the case of Stern, his network (Viacom) has paid millions of dollars in fines for foul and obscene language broadcasts. The last single fine of $755,000 for sexually explicit content and other alleged indecency violations ended Stern's career at Viacom.
Television isn't far behind. Will we ever forget Janet Jackson's attempt to restart her career and promote her new CD by flopping her breast into the faces of an unsuspecting national TV audience during the Super Bowl half-time show? That incident really fired up the family viewing groups and, of course, those holier-than-thou types more commonly known as politicians.
While there have always been respectable people and certain groups that opposed what they define as indecent broadcasts, today it's gotten entirely out of hand. Broadcasters may now have no choice but to implement a permanent broadcast delay on all live television.
A recent incident is a perfect example.
NBC was broadcasting live the EA Sports 500 at Talladega. In a post-race interview, race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. uttered (oh my gosh) the “s” word, saying, “this don't mean s…”
The uttering of that one word launched a series of complaints to the FCC from the Parents Television Council (PTC).
Laura Mahaney, PTC director of external affairs said, “I don't know why they [television broadcasters] haven't caught on yet that they need some kind of tape delay.”
“Good grief,” as the Peanuts character Lucy would say. I say, get a life!
It was one word — and a quite common one at that. What kid over the age of 24 hours hasn't heard it? Since when is one word such a big deal?
It seems the radio DJs and programmers have decided they would rather flee than fight. They are all moving to satellite, where the FCC, at least so far, doesn't give an “s” what programmers do. So we can have Howard Stern, Anthony and Opie, Dale Earnhardt and Joe from “The Sopranos” saying all the words they want without fear that the FCC will hunt them down. You see, it's satellite. It's not RF, or at least not the “public's spectrum,” and besides you have to pay for it to get it.
What I can't figure out is this: Would it be okay for NBC and the other networks just to delay the over-the-air broadcasts and censor them, but let all the hells and damns and other words go out uncensored on cable and satellite?
After all, those are “paid” channels and that seems to be the FCC's criteria on regulation. Then Ms. Mahaney and her ilk could simply give up their cable and satellite systems and just watch OTA broadcast. Sure, they might go from having 200 channels to five, but heck, they'd have profanity-free-TV.