Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | July 17, 2010

Why I applaud the recent ruling against the FCC


I cant say how glad I was when I heard that the FCC (The US Government commission that regulates the media) had lost a Federal lawsuit that declared their so-called ‘indecency’ rulesunconstitutional when it comes to ‘fleeting obcenities’ uttered during prime-time TV.

 Those regulations were set in place around the time watchdog organizations complained that Bono and other celebrities dropped F-bombs during award shows a few years back. The biggest backlash, however, came when Janet Jackson had her infamous ‘wardrobe malfunction’ during the Super Bowl halftime show. It was then that the FCC cracked down, and when several live shows had to be broadcast with a five-second delay so censors could ‘bleep’ out random obcenities (I couldn’t help but feel sorry for whoever it is that has to sit through an entire Academy Awards show with his or her finger firmly placed over a button). 

Of course, the FCC will certainly appeal, and the entire case might end up at the Supreme Court – which might generate a major cultural change when it comes to TV and other mediums. We might not have late-night movies in which a character says ‘messed up’ or ‘fudge’ when we know exactly what he or she said on the original. 

While some right-wing watchdog organizations complained that the ruling will affect those who think children should be ‘protected’ from the media, I could not help but smile. 

I grew up in Brazil, a country that faced harsh censorship on the press and media in general during the cruel US-supported dictatorship that lasted from 1964 to 1985. Everything – from music to news – was heavily scruntinized. Movies were banned (two examples are Jean-Luc Godard’s “Je Vous Salue, Marie” and Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange”) , and even songwriters like Chico Buarque and Caetano Veloso had to rely on creative wordplay in order to trick the censors into allowing their songs to be aired on the radio.

The new constitution promulgated in 1988 changed all that, and since then the media has created its own privately-funded self-censorship organizations. That is why during the Carnaval parade (which usually runs through the night) partial nudity is openly shown on TV without as much as a ripple; those who oppose to the parade simply switch the channel and watch whatever is playing on other stations. And I do believe that this is the kind of model that this country should be following.

Parent organizations in the US complained that the FCC ruling strips parents’ rights. Allow me to disagree here. With today’s technology, parents can easily control what their children can or not see on TV and the Internet (V-Chip, anyone?), and of course they can simply educate their kids to what is OK or not. 

Granted, kids today are more tech-savvy than their parents might be. But then again, if you want to shield a child from foul language, sexual innuendo or anything else you might find objectionable, you’d have to confine him or her to a bubble. Just riding on the Staten Island Ferry the other day, I sat near a group of teens, and could not help but notice that every third word they (loudly) proferred was “f***.” And if you think they learned that from watching HBO, I got a bridge in Brooklyn that you might want to buy.

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