• When Did the FCC Become a Lobbying Arm of the Entertainment Industry?

    by  • April 10, 2013 • Broadcast Decency • 0 Comments

    With just weeks left to his tenure as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Julius Genachowski quietly announced a rules change that would have the FCC only pursue the most egregious indecency complaints from the public. Expletives, non-sexual nudity, and other content most parents would probably not wish their children to be exposed to – would all be given a pass if these new rules go into effect.

    This move is particularly perplexing in light of the fact that less than a year ago, the Supreme Court affirmed the authority of the FCC to enforce existing broadcast decency laws and effectively put the networks on notice that any future violations would be subject to the harshest penalties the FCC is legally allowed to impose.

    Did the FCC immediately set to work clearing the backlog of unajudicated indecency complaints that had been piling up while the issue was being settled in the courts? No. They quietly dumped upward of one million “stale” indecency complaints – stale because of the FCC’s inaction – and then announced this policy change, which favors the networks at the expense of families.

    The networks could hardly have hoped for a better outcome. Families could hardly have fared worse.

    So… exactly when did the FCC become a lobbying arm of the entertainment industry? Because let’s face it, when you give Hollywood an inch, they’ll take a mile. Tell Hollywood that non-sexual nudity is no longer subject to indecency enforcement, and the networks will quickly glut the airwaves with as much nudity as they can cram in. Need proof?

    In July 2010, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that so-called “fleeting expletives” could not be subject to the FCC’s enforcement. Immediately after, across all networks, there was a sharp increase in the frequency and explicitness of profanity on the broadcast networks during primetime.  Across all networks, profanity increased 69.3% between 2005 and 2010. The largest increases were found in the harshest profanities and in explicit references to genitalia and body functions: use of the bleeped or muted f-word increased from 11 instances total in 2005 to 276 instances in 2010 – an increase of 2,409 %; use of the bleeped or muted s-word increased from 11 instances in 2005 to 95 instances in 2010 – an increase of 763%.

    The Supreme Court overturned the Second Circuit’s ruling, but too late – the genie is already out of the bottle, and now this level of profanity on the broadcast airwaves during primetime is our “new normal.”

    Does anybody really believe the networks will suddenly exercise restraint and good taste in light of the news that the FCC will be ignoring the vast majority of indecency complaints filed by the public? Particularly when content creators include folks like Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story), who once stated his life’s ambition was to be the trailblazer who would make it possible to depict a “rear-entry scene” on broadcast television; and Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, American Dad), who even under the old policy still saw fit to script scenarios including a man masturbating a horse and a baby eating semen?

    The rules change can only mean one thing for families, the complete dismantling of ALL standards.

    Fortunately for citizens and consumers, Hollywood doesn’t have the last say. Neither does outgoing chairman Genachowski. The FCC is accepting public comments on the proposed rules change until the end of April.

    The FCC will not accept general email comments. To be valid, you are required to file a formal comment via the FCC’s website.

    Please follow these instruction carefully, to ensure your comment is accepted by the FCC:

    1. Go to http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/upload/begin?procName=&filedFrom=X.
    2. Enter the code “13-86″ in the “Proceeding Number” box and fill out the few remaining required fields.
    3. Enter your comment in the text box provided and click “Continue.”
    4. From there, review your comment and click “Confirm.”

    Not sure what to say? Here’s an example of a comment you can submit:

    I oppose any changes to the current FCC indecency standards. The FCC must continue to vigorously oppose ALL indecent content, even if brief or “fleeting.”

    The Supreme Court has affirmed the FCC’s authority to enforce policies prohibiting indecent broadcast content during hours when children are likely to be in the viewing or listening audience.

    Relaxing the current policy would not serve the public interest and I urge the FCC to reject all proposals that would allow for the broadcast of expletives and nudity on FCC-licensed stations.

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    About

    Ms. Henson is a noted expert on entertainment industry trends and the how the impact of entertainment affects children and the American popular culture at large. She also directs the organization’s Advertiser Accountability Campaign, which encourages companies to sponsor family-friendly entertainment. She previously supervised the research and program content analysis operations of the PT and produced a number of groundbreaking PTC studies that document the levels of graphic sex, violence and profanity on television. Some of those reports include: The Ratings Sham I & II, Dying to Entertain, Faith in a Box, The Sour Family Hour, The Blue Tube, and TV Bloodbath. She began her career with the PTC in 1997 as an entertainment analyst, documenting instances of inappropriate content on television. Ms. Henson has appeared on a variety of television shows including Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Big Story, CNN Headline News’ ShowBiz Tonight, CNBC’s On the Money, MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, and CBN’s Newswatch. She is a frequent guest on radio talk shows across the country and has been quoted extensively in news sources such asEntertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Variety, Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Ms. Henson is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a BA in Government. She resides in Falls Church, Va., with her husband and their son.

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