As can be seen by their actions last week in demanding that the Federal Communications Commission completely abandon enforcing broadcast decency laws, the broadcast networks are in panic mode. There are two reasons for this.
Firstly, last week, the public comment period on indecency policy ended…and more than one hundred thousand Americans stated they want the FCC to continue to enforce decency standards. This is a humiliating blow for the networks – especially since they love to claim their programming is just “giving people what they want.” The fact that over 100,000 Americans took the time to navigate the FCC’s arcane public filing procedure to tell the regulatory agency to enforce the law speaks volumes. It proves very definitely that not everyone is a fan of the graphic gore, nudity, sex and explicit language the networks are shoving into homes. It also creates a good deal of public pressure on the FCC; while it might be easy enough to dismiss a couple hundred comments, over 100,000 comments from the public are not brushed aside and ignored so easily.
And secondly, during his confirmation hearing as FCC Chairman, nominee Tom Wheeler said of current TV programming, “When I see some things I kind of grit my teeth and say ‘is this what I want my grandkids to be seeing?’” Recalling the legendary 1960s FCC Chairman Newton Minow (who called television a “vast wasteland”), Wheeler acknowledged that there was a role for the FCC to play in encouraging higher quality content: “[Minow] did that without regulatory authority…Maybe it’s possible to do the same kind of thing today, and say: ‘Can’t we do better?’”
But the networks have become so accustomed to having an FCC chair who is their lapdog that even the mere prospect of being asked not to show garbage terrifies them. To be fair, there is a reason for them to react this way; the FCC’s last chair, Julius Genachowski, threw away over one million indecency complaints from the public, and attempted to gut indecency enforcement entirely. But soon, there will be a new FCC chair; and the industry is panicking at the thought that he might not be as willing to look the other way at indecency as his predecessor.
The entertainment cartel wants there to be absolutely no restrictions whatsoever on the amount of gore, sex, nudity, and extreme content they dump into every living room in America – using the airwaves owned by the American people to do so. If someone paraded around naked on a public playground in front of your children, and when you complained said, “If you don’t like it, don’t watch,” what would you do? You’d call the police, in full expectation that they’d put a stop to it. And that is what Americans have done with the FCC – called on the government agency to do its job and enforce the law. Over 100,000 Americans have demanded it.
But one network was right about one thing: in its comments to the Commission, CBS said that the FCC should have a policy that resists outside political pressure. We agree. The FCC should resist the political, financial, and lobbying pressure that the networks, which have billions of dollars they’ve made off using a public utility, can bring to bear.
The FCC has to decide what its mission is. Will it continue to be an advocate for the networks, blindly obeying the entertainment cartel’s army of slick lawyers and lobbyists? Or will it listen to the voice of American parents, citizens, and taxpayers, who simply want to protect their children from an onslaught that threatens to corrupt them and undermine our society?