FCC patrolling our airwaves to protect us from dirty words

July 12, 2006 | By | 3 Replies More

MSNBC has just reported that the FCC is working long hours to protect us from harmful language, i.e., language that “depicts or describes sexual or excretory activities or organs in a patently offensive manner.”

In its continuing crackdown on on-air profanity, the FCC has requested numerous tapes from broadcasters that might include vulgar remarks from unruly spectators, coaches and athletes at live sporting events, industry sources said.

Tapes requested by the commission include live broadcasts of football games and NASCAR races where the participants or the crowds let loose with an expletive. While commission officials refused to talk about its requests, one broadcast company executive said the commission had asked for 30 tapes of live sports and news programs.

As explained by MSNBC, the Commission is cracking down on variations of the words “f***” and “s***” even if the words are uttered accidentally.

I’m really glad that our government is keeping TV safe.   This sort of detail work is likely quite expensive, but I’m sure they’ve thought this all though to make sure that there is nothing better to do with all of that money.  There’s no telling what harm could happen if one is exposed to a dangerous word.  I didn’t see Janet Jackson’s nipple, but had I seen it, I might have missed several days of work trying to recover. 

Or so I thought.  Because this is such an important matter, I decided to subject myself to an experiment.I turned off the phone, went to a quiet room and pulled the shades.  Sweating and trembling, I took a seat, breathed in, then uttered the word “f—.”   I waited for several minutes, checking my pulse periodically.  Here’s the amazing thing:  NOTHING BAD HAPPENED.  I tried it again with the word “s—.”  Same incredible result.   I repeated this experiment several times, so the result was not a fluke.  But I wasn’t finished with my scientific analysis.  After carefully scouring the Internet for two hours, I finally found a photograph of a woman’s nipple.  Pulse: normal.  Breathing: a bit accelerated, but within normal range.  I decided I was OK.  I still wasn’t done, however.

I gathered my two young children and asked them to sit on the family couch.  After making them sign waiver agreements I had drafted, I asked them  to listen very carefully to what I was about to say.  I clearly spoke the word “copulation.” They looked at me puzzledly.  I elaborated:  “men and woman trying to have a baby.”  Still nothing.  I made careful notes and moved on with my experiment. 

I then uttered the word “urination.”  Nothing!  “Defecation.”  Nothing at all.  “Poop.”  “Pee”  “Number 2.”  Even though I had previously taught them the technical meanings of these terms, they simply stared at me, sometimes smiling but never appearing to be harmed.  In case you are concerned: I’ve been keeping a close eye on my kids ever since to make sure that there aren’t any negative delayed harmful reactions.

Here is my conclusion.  Fate has blessed the members of my family with good genes that protect each of us from the harmful effects of words that depict or describe sexual or excretaory activities.

In the meantime, I have noticed one problem to which my family is susceptible. My children become disturbed and distressed whenever they see a photograph an Iraqi adult and child injured or killed by a bomb or bullets.  Fortunately, American television stations work hard to carefully filter out most of those images.  American stations focus on the launching of missiles, usually from the well-scrubbed deck of a navy ship.  Now if only we can keep those foreign stations from broadcasting those pornographic images of what happens when missiles come down . . .


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Category: Language, Politics

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (3)

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  1. Erika Price says:

    From the MSN article: "Under a new law approved by Congress and signed by President Bush, broadcasters face fines of as much as $325,000 per violation, up from a previous maximum of $32,500."

    $325,000?! For something uttered by a spectator, no less? I consider censorship rather absurd in principle, let alone the extreme lengths to which the FCC will go to keep live programming squeaky-clean.

  2. Heather says:

    Personally, I think television shows should be able to say/show whatever they want. What ever happened to taking care of your children eg monitoring them? I get offended by things just like everyone else, and even try to be proactive in this. For instance, I would never stay at a Hilton Inn or eat at a Hardees. Who are we to judge what other people find entertaining or otherwise though? Now the Superbowl incident was a bit different, but the FCC needs to get over it. Stuff happens. The people involved paid their fines, which I think was the right thing to do, and that is that.

    The news shows what people want to see, just like any other program. Like you said, no one wants to see dead bodies. People are more than inclined to see the appearance of the VICTORIOUS USA.

  3. grumpypilgrim says:

    I've never understood America's bizarre television censorship laws. It's OK to show movies like 'The Terminator,' 'Alien,' 'Predator,' etc., where nice people are hunted and massacred by futuristic killing machines, but it's a national outrage to show a quarter-second glimpse of Janet Jackson's breast. It's OK to show insanely violent cartoons on Saturday morning children's programs, but there's a huge fine if an excited fan uses the 'f' word on a sports program. It's OK to show American children 100,000+ acts of violence by the time they are 18 years old, but we'd better not let them see a naked buttocks or they might be scarred for life. For a nation of supposedly educated, relatively sophisticated people, America has some truly Medieval (dare I say idiotic?) censorship laws.

    And as regards dirty words, just stroll past your local grade school playground sometime and listen to the colorful language that kids have already learned to use. Or walk down your local Walmart sales aisle, or stand in line at your local movie theater, and see how long you can prevent your kids from hearing the 'f' word or the 's' word. Indeed, I wonder how many kids learn these words from their parents.

    Bottom line: I agree with Heather, but for a different reason: keeping dirty words off television does nothing to prevent children from hearing them anyway. Moreover, as Erich points out, kids aren't damaged by hearing them, so what is the big deal? Seems like just another way for Republicans to try to score political points in an election year — right up there with trying to ban flag burning and same-sex marriage. No matter that such issues are irrelevant to the nation's prosperity; the only metric that counts is whether it benefits the bozos who (currently) control Congress.

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