Hit & Run

You Really Can't Say That On TV!


Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed (by a 99-1 vote) legislation increasing fines for broadcasters who run afoul of FCC decency rules. From the Bloomberg account:

The Senate measure would raise Federal Communications Commission fines against television and radio broadcasters such as Viacom Inc. to as much as $275,000 a violation and $3 million a day. The current maximum fine is $27,500 a violation and will go up to $32,500 in about a month to account for inflation.

The Senate also passed a resolution proclaiming that there's been significant media consolidation since 1996 and suspended last year's FCC ownership rules. Whole pathetic thing here. The House passed similar legislation a while back (which Pres. Bush supports), so look for a final law sooner rather than later. Especially in an election year.

The lone senatorial holdout, by the way, was John Breaux (D-La.), who opposed the bill for one crappy and one good reason. Figure out which by reading this great demolition of fears of "media consolidation."

All of this reminds me of something Drew Carey said in his refreshingly foul-mouthed and funny 1997 Reason interview:

The government is really into "protecting" people. The FCC says you can't broadcast certain words and certain pictures. It says it's protecting citizens. But I'm sitting in my home with DirecTV and can watch whatever I want. I can afford the best pornography--laser-disc porn! The government's not protecting me from anything.

All the government's doing is discriminating against poor people. It thinks poor people are like cows, that poor people can't think straight: If we let them hear dirty words or see dirty pictures, there's going to be madness! If you're poor and all you can afford is a 12-inch black-and-white TV and can't pay for cable--you're so protected! You'd probably be happier if you could see some pornography, a pair of titties, once in a while on free TV. But a pair of titties on free TV? The government figures if you saw that, you'd just explode!

The interview, done when Carey's book Dirty Jokes and Beer: Stories of the Unrefined hit bookstores, also includes illuminating examples of what network censors let pass. For instance, "butt wipe" got cut but "butt weasel" was OK'd. God only knows why.