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.