In their effort to push the Federal Communications Commission into abandoning enforcement of broadcast decency laws, the broadcast networks must have had their spin-doctors working overtime on their public statements. Here’s a roundup of the various questionable claims the networks – who are using the people’s airwaves free of charge – told the government.
- ABC, CBS, NBCUniversal, the National Association of Broadcasters, and a large group of broadcast station owners said broadcast TV is no longer “uniquely pervasive.” With so many cable and satellite networks, websites, streaming video channels, and other entertainment options, they say, broadcast TV should be treated just like all the other channels – that is to say, not subject to decency laws – because broadcast TV is nothing special anymore.
But the head of the National Association of Broadcasters himself says that’s not true. During his keynote address at the Association’s annual convention last year, NAB President Gordon Smith stated, “Even today, broadcast radio and TV are where the ears and eyeballs are. More than 46 million viewers rely exclusively on over-the-air TV. Of the top 100 prime-time shows, 95 of them are on broadcast TV, not cable networks.”
And just last Friday, June 21st, Politico reported on a study showing that “nearly one in five American homes doesn’t pay for television service, a roughly 11 percent increase over a year ago.” In other words, more people are using only broadcast TV today – meaning it is MORE “uniquely pervasive” than it was before!
Even beyond such evidence, it should be clear that broadcast TV is still the most influential medium in America; for if it wasn’t, why would thousands of advertisers spend billions of dollars a year to show commercials on it?
- An affiliate association for CBS and NBC claimed that “imposing costly fines for fleeting expletives or brief nudity would unnecessarily chill speech.” We invite the networks to ask anyone who has ever watched a few minutes of Family Guy or Two and a Half Men – not to mention one of the eleventy-dozen shows about serial killers on TV these days — if they think freedom of expression is being “chilled.” Indeed, given the graphic content on TV today, most parents probably wish network speech was MORE “chilled” – if not downright frozen.
- Along the same lines, the Writers Guild of America told the FCC to abolish indecency laws entirely. “We believe the Commission should state that use of nonsexual nudity is not indecent. We also believe that the use of expletives in a non-excretory context should not be considered indecent,” the Guild said. Is the entertainment industry admitting that their writers are so intellectually and creatively bankrupt that it would be a hardship to ask them to write a half-hour sitcom without people parading around in the nude and spewing f-words? If so, today’s writers are much less talented and creative than those of the past. For over 40 years, Hollywood managed to make movies and television without such content.
- The networks also complained that, by restricting the use of full-frontal nudity and the f-word, the FCC is “violating the Constitution.” Because the “right” to spew the word “mother***er” in front of four-year-olds is exactly what James Madison had in mind when he wrote the First Amendment.
- CBS claimed that parents worried about their children seeing foul content should use the V-Chip. But the V-Chip depends on the ratings assigned to TV programs for its effectiveness; and as the PTC has repeatedly shown, the current TV ratings system is worthless, since each network rates its own programs.
- The networks also complained that imposing fines for expletives or nudity “would discourage broadcasters from airing live events and deprive the public of valuable programming.” Apparently, these broadcasters have never heard of a five-second delay…in spite of having used it, off and on, for decades. There is no reason why such a delay could not be implemented on all live events.
And as for “depriving the public of valuable programming,” how exactly would a five-second delay deprive anyone of anything? What is this programming that is so “valuable” that graphic violence, crude sex, and cruder language simply HAS to be used? That kind of language isn’t used in courtrooms. It isn’t used in professional settings or on the floor of Congress. Why do the networks think it is acceptable to use in people’s homes?
- A network affiliates’ association for CBS and NBC played the networks’ supposed trump card: “If the public is offended by sights and sounds in such programming, there are any number of means for it to voice its discontent, such as hitting the ‘off’ button, turning the dial, or changing the channel.”
There is one more “means for [the public] to voice its discontent” – a means set up by the people’s representatives in government: filing complaints with the FCC. The entire purpose of the FCC is to regulate the use of the public airwaves. Are broadcasters suggesting that the American people should have absolutely no say over how the airwaves the people themselves own is used by private industry? This is similar to the owners of a pollution-belching factory saying, “The Environmental Protection Agency shouldn’t regulate air quality. If people don’t like what we’re pumping into the air, they can buy bottled oxygen. Or stop breathing.”
The more one thinks about this statement by the networks, the more bizarre it becomes. A trade association of television executives is telling its dissatisfied customers to stop watching their programming, rather than complaining. One has to ask: do those in charge of the entertainment industry REALLY want people to “hit the off button” every time they see something offensive?
And the suggestion that viewers “change the channel” is just as empty. Due to the industry’s obsession with foul language, sex, and gore, where exactly do they propose people turn to? When even the Discovery Channel is airing programs about naked couples and Nick Junior (intended for 2-6 year olds) dumps shows featuring explicit talk about breasts and genitals into prime time, where should viewers go when they “change the channel”?
(True, there are a few decent networks – the Hallmark Channel, INSP, UP – but it is notable that none of them are owned by the major entertainment conglomerates that control the broadcast networks. Indeed, the industry giants are doing their utmost to drive them out of business.)
This demonstrates the clueless arrogance of the entertainment industry. They do not own the airwaves. The American people do. And the American people – over 100,000 of them – have spoken, and have said that they want more stringent enforcement of laws against indecency.
But the entertainment cartel says in response, “We don’t care what you think. We don’t care that we’re trampling on your liberties, using your airwaves to invade your home and corrupt your children.”
Here’s what the entertainment industry is really saying: “It is more important to us to push extreme violence, graphic sex, and explicit language on your kids than it is to please our customers and sponsors, or obey the law.”
The advertisers who pay that same industry billions of dollars a year for the privilege of showing commercials should pause and reflect. Companies that sell soap, or motor oil, or soda pop, or anything else wouldn’t get very far if they replied to a complaint about their product with, “If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Or change to our competitor’s product.” Yet the advertisers are standing by and allowing the entertainment industry to tell those watching their commercials exactly that. If advertisers wonder why nobody sees their ads or buys their products, the entertainment industry’s determination to drive away their customers might be a good place to start.
- And in the most laughable line of all, the network affiliates’ association for CBS and NBC claimed that “Broadcasters take seriously their obligations as stewards of the public airwaves.”
By their own actions over more than a decade, the broadcast networks have shown, time and again, that they couldn’t care less about their “stewardship” of the public airwaves, or acting in “the public interest.”
Finally, one article claimed that the PTC has “generated over a million listener complaints.” This may be the biggest distortion of them all. The PTC can’t “generate” anything. All we can do is inform the public about the actions taken by Big Media and the FCC, and then leave it up to the public to file complaints, if they wish to do so. The PTC has absolutely no way of compelling anyone to take any action they do not want to take. That over 100,000 Americans have freely chosen to file public comments on the FCC’s proposed rule change, and that well over a MILLION Americans filed complaints about indecent content (complaints the previous FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski, ignored and threw in the garbage for no reason whatsoever), says everything a person needs to know: the overwhelming majority of the American public is sick and tired of a tiny clique of Hollywood insiders and network bosses cramming nudity, sex, foul language, and violence down their throats. They are so sick of it they have chosen as private individuals to contact the government about it.
Luckily for Americans, this country is still a democracy, and the voice of the people still trumps that of billion-dollar corporations…if the FCC listens to them.