Who Should Determine Dirty Words and Images?

Submitted by ub on Tue, 01/10/2012 - 19:59

There are about a half million words in the English language and only seven are officially considered bad words, according to George Carlin.

Although a decision is not expected until early summer, US Supreme Court Justices seemed reluctant Today to end our government’s historic policing of the broadcast airwaves and to strike down the “indecency” rules that guide prime-time TV programs.

At issue before the high court was a plea from the broadcast industry urging the justices to strike down or sharply limit the government’s authority to police the airwaves. Since the 1930s, federal law has prohibited radio and TV broadcasters from putting on the airwaves material that is “obscene, indecent or profane.”

Over the past decade, Federal Communication Commissioners have successfully launched a crackdown on indecency. Several TV networks, including Fox and ABC, were hit with heavy fines. Fox was fined for allowing celebrities, including singer Cher and U2's Bono, to utter four-letter words during live awards programs. ABC was fined for showing a brief nude scene in an episode of “NYPD Blue.”

Lawyers for the networks urged the Supreme Court to throw out the fines and strike down the FCC’s indecency rules. They said federal policing of broadcast content was outdated and no longer warranted. They said most Americans receive entertainment and news though cable TV or the Internet, and these media have full 1st Amendment rights. Broadcasters deserve the same rights, they said.

These justices also argued that current FCC policy against indecency is vague and arbitrary and should be voided on those grounds. They noted that the broadcast of “Saving Private Ryan,” the World War II movie by Steven Spielberg which portrayed the Normandy landings, was permitted, even though it included plenty of four-letter words. At the same time, other broadcasters were fined for allowing a single four-letter word.

During Tuesday’s argument, neither approach seemed to win converts among Supreme Court Justices.

Warning - Video contains offensive words and unfit for broadcast!