• Networks to FCC: “Let Us Do Anything We Want”

    by  • June 24, 2013 • Broadcast Decency • 2 Comments

    Since the “trust-busting” era of Teddy Roosevelt, one of the federal government’s responsibilities has been to ensure that private industry does not trample the rights of American citizens. But last week, the broadcast television networks told the government, “Ignore the American people. Let us do anything we want!”

    In a legal filing with the Federal Communications Commission last week, the Fox network (along with the other networks and entertainment industry groups) demanded that the Commission “conclude it is legally required and logically bound to cease attempting broadcast indecency limits once and for all.”

    The Federal Communications Commission was set up in 1934 to regulate the publicly-owned airwaves and see that they are used “in the public interest.” But now, privately-owned broadcast companies are arrogantly telling the government agency that it should completely and totally abandon broadcast decency limits “once and for all.” One is tempted to ask, “Who do they think they are?” Fox’s executives must believe they have the power of a dictator, to order the government to stop enforcing the law. Even without the power of a dictator, Fox certainly has the attitude of one.

    But neither Fox nor the other networks own the broadcast airwaves. The American people do. The American people graciously permit the networks to use them – and use them free of charge! – to make billions of dollars in profit every year. (Think how much lower the national debt would be if the U.S., like many foreign governments, charged corporate networks for use of the airwaves!) In return, the American people ask that the networks obey a few simple rules — including not showing full-frontal nudity or graphic sex, or using the f-word, at times of day when children are in the audience.

    These rules have been in place for decades; yet recently, a tiny clique of network bosses have decided to blast nudity and profanity into every home. Since 2005, use of the f-word has gone up more than 2400% on prime-time broadcast TV; and there were almost as many shows containing blurred or pixilated full nudity in only the first 4 months of 2013 as during the entire 2011-2012 television season.

    Obviously, the broadcast networks are pushing full throttle for the ability to show anything they want, any time they want, no matter how graphic it is or how many kids are watching. ABC stated that the FCC should “hold that material is not indecent if it is not both highly graphic and so sustained or repeated as to constitute verbal or visual ‘shock treatment’.” That’s right — the TV network owned by DISNEY wants to be able to air nudity and profanity without any restrictions, any time they please.

    NBC was even more blatant about wanting to push nudity, sex, and foul language at kids. Previously, the hours 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. have been considered a “safe harbor,” during which more explicit programming can be shown. NBC wants to erode these limits – in a manner that would affect the American heartland much more seriously. NBC said, “The Commission should consider a program broadcast after 10 p.m. in the Eastern Time zone to be within the safe harbor even in the Central and Mountain Time zones where it may be broadcast after 9 p.m.” In other words, if you live in Cleveland, Minneapolis, Lincoln, Denver, or anywhere other than the East or West coast, the networks say they should be able to bombard your kids with graphic sex and profanity at 9 p.m. All that matters is what happens in Manhattan and Beverly Hills; and if the media elites in those places want f-bombs and explicit sex at 9 p.m., then everyone should have to see it!

    Several of the networks, the National Association of Broadcasters and the Writers Guild of America, said the FCC should show “significant respect for, and reluctance to second-guess, the editorial and artistic judgments of stations and program creators” and “treat broadcasters’ artistic and editorial choices with great deference.”

    This would be an interesting and unique approach for government regulatory agencies to take toward private industry. Should the Environmental Protection Agency also treat the owners and executives of oil companies, coal-burning electric plants, and nuclear power plants, with “respect for their choices”? Should Congress abolish warning labels on cigarette packages and remove taxes on tobacco products, thereby treating the tobacco industry with the same “great deference” the media says they should accord broadcasters? After all, the people in those industries and working for those corporations are the experts. Why should we assume some government regulator knows any more about nuclear power or growing tobacco than they do about what’s on TV? Shouldn’t ALL corporations be allowed to do anything they want? If not, why not? If Big Media isn’t regulated, then shouldn’t Big Tobacco get to do whatever it wants, too?

    But once again, the greatest arrogance was shown by Fox. “The Commission owes it to broadcasters and the Supreme Court to dismiss whatever remains of the backlog of pending indecency cases,” the network said.

    This gets things exactly backwards. The FCC is a regulatory body of the federal government. It’s entire purpose is to regulate private broadcasters. That is the whole reason it exists. The FCC does not  “owe” broadcasters anything. What the FCC does “owe” is this: is owes the American people a fair enforcement of the law against indecency on the people’s own airwaves.

    The broadcast network’s bosses need to get it into their heads: the FCC – and the American people – are their masters, not their servants…and no matter how many billions of dollars they may make off a public utility, the networks are not above the law.

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    About

    Christopher Gildemeister is the PTC’s Head of Research Operations. He began as an Entertainment Analyst at the PTC in 2005. From 2007-2016, he was Senior Writer/Editor, responsible for communicating the PTC’s message to the public through newsletters, columns, and the PTC Watchdog blog. Dr. Gildemeister holds a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America.

    2 Responses to Networks to FCC: “Let Us Do Anything We Want”

    1. Tom North
      June 28, 2013 at 10:09 am

      This is a superb article. As my organization originally argued to the Supreme Court in 2011, Fox Television seeks to guard the henhouse, and then slaughter all of the hens, by forcing unwanted indecency without any restraint on the public. Their comments to the FCC are PROOF of just WHY indecency laws ARE still needed!

    2. Lisa
      June 29, 2013 at 11:04 pm

      Thank you for that, I was looking up the because I just took my 4yr old out of his bath (I know kid of late) and put him on my bed to watch some cartoon well I put sheets on his bed. There was a pic of a girl tied up BDSM style I turned it quickly and then saw the TV was not on HBO SHO or CINmax it was on normal cable like USA or something !! Law and order C.I. What!!! I could kind of expect really nasty stuff from cinamax but not normal TV and law and order is a show from public free TV (I think) Soo mad right now you can’t even turn on the TV now days. I’m not saying that no TV MA shows should ever be allowed. I love trueblood an shameless. but lets keep them on HBO…. And places like that

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