Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hypocrisy at the FCC

The FCC has slapped CBS with millions of dollars in fines for broadcasting "indecent" content. First, there was the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction at the 2004 Superbowl which cost the network $550,000. Last year, the commission handed down more than $3 million in fines for a teen orgy depicted in an episode of"Without a Trace." Just this week, the FCC announced its intent to fine CBS another $1.43 million for a bit of skin shown on a 2003 episode of "NYPD Blue."

None of these scenes were particularly graphic. Janet Jackson's exposed (and pierced) breast was allegedly shown by accident, the teen orgy was mostly blurred images of swaying bodies, and the semi-nude scene in "Blue" depicted a small boy getting a bathroom glimpse of a grown woman. Indecent? This wasn't pornography. And it wasn't indecent unless you consider breasts indecent, or story lines that deal with real-life issues. Yes, teenagers sometimes have orgies. The fictional orgy in question, by the way, resulted in consequences. And the bathoom scene in "Blue" was similarly well done.

But even if these fictional scenes hadn't been skillfully executed, the FCC has overstepped its bounds. It is now acting as a story and content editor for CBS, and it has a big stick. Of course, the FCC is bowing under pressure from "decency" groups that would like to ban breasts -- and apparently all depictions of youthful sexuality -- from the air.

It's unfortunate that the FCC has chosen this issue to put its considerable resources behind. The commission is responsible for protecting the public from far more than the occasional breast, and what I find truly indecent is the amount of advertising aimed at children. That type of advertising is banned, with good reason, in most of the world. Apparently, the FCC is dedicated to helping advertisers produce a generation of consumers while giving lip service to the idea of decency.

But judge for yourself. The offending scenes are offered below.