Janet Jackson's Nipple and 9/11: Pretty Much the Same

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"CBS to Air Profanity-Laden Program," announces the American Family Association (AFA). "CBS has stated they have not, and will not, make any cuts in the amount and degree of profanity," reads a linked, bolded petition. "Send an email, asking the FCC to enforce the law." What's the offending show? Oh, it's a documentary. About 9/11. The profanity, of course, is that of firefighters. The AFA wants the "indecent" bits excised so children, as they watch the towers fall, aren't forever scarred by a stray naughty word. CBS has refused, and some of its affiliates say they won't air the show for fear of fines. AP reports:

Broadcasters say the hesitancy of some CBS affiliates to air a powerful Sept. 11 documentary next week proves there's been a chilling effect on the First Amendment since federal regulators boosted penalties for television obscenities after Janet Jackson's breast was exposed at a Super Bowl halftime show.

"This is example No. 1," said Martin Franks, executive vice president of CBS Corp., of the decision by two dozen CBS affiliates to replace or delay "9/11"—which has already aired twice without controversy—over concerns about some of the language used by the firefighters in it.

The documentary (not to be confused with ABC's historical fiction) will be pushed until after 10pm on some stations, when bad words are better tolerated. It's not clear to me whether CBS really expects to be fined or is posturing for effect, but either way, the FCC's indecency police look increasingly ridiculous.

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  1. The Decency Police don’t look ridiculous to me. They look frightening.

  2. I will send a letter protesting the broadcast to the FCC. The FCC should not get a pass on this. Let the FCC rule against the speech of American patriots while fighting the good fight against terrorism. At the very least a Profane Firefighter safe harbor provision may get written into the regulations.

  3. What a soccer mom to do! Like all good Americans, she wants her family to grow up well steeped in prime-time television, but then they say these curse words and it ruins everything. I would recommend that all good Americans simply time shift their patriotic immersion in television one night. So on Monday night, mommy tapes the television program, then edits out the bad words. The family then watches the show at the same time, but on Tuesday! And clever mommies will use a computer to substitute good, Jesus-appropriate words for the bad ones.

  4. Maybe the next generation of TVs will include accessories such as an off button, or more than one channel. For now, pre-fab complaints to an agency that registers only complaints are our only defence against the creeping forces of vulgarity.

  5. Props to CBS.

  6. Chilling Effect? What a load of crap. I want a list of the dates in history when it was okay to utter fuck or shit on broadcast TV.

    Everybody has a wheel barrow full of hyperbole and this is no exception. Freedom to swear in public has never been greater than it is today. People who value free speech would do well to speak the truth and leave the bullshit where it belongs.

  7. November 11, 2005, ABC airs “Saving Private Ryan” unedited, about 25 instances of the word Fuck.

    The FCC guidelines in the Clinton era allowed the single use of the word fuck so long as it was an expression of duress or shock, and not sex.

    In NYC, there is full nudity on TV. I suspect that your impression that fuck and shit have never been allowed is just a product of the TV markets you’ve lived in.

  8. “In NYC, there is full nudity on TV”

    Perhaps you refer to cable channels?

    Since when did major network affiliate lose the ability to bleep a simple broadcast?

  9. Bubba,
    Regarding full nudity: The Robin Byrd Show is currently on basic cable, though it started out on regular public access television in 1977.

  10. Re: Robin Byrd: Not entirely true, sorry. Always been on basic cable.

  11. Lamar, there is no full nudity on broadcast TV. And thank you for naming the one date in history when the exception was made and an unedited version of a movie was run on network TV. I had forgotten about that.

    My point remains perfectly valid. If we run around screaming about how the FCC is chilling free speech on network TV we look like idiots. Anyone over 15 knows that the FCC has always had a hammer lock on free speech over the airwaves. Anyone over 25 knows that there is way more frank talk on the radio and on network TV than there ever used to be.

    Let’s applaud CBS for running the 09/11 show uneditied. Let’s say that the FCC should be abolished. Let’s suggest that people use the on/off switch. Let’s invoke the 1st Amendment. But I don’t think it helps us a bit to resort to whining about how oppressive the new FCC is and how free speech is dwindling away. Because it isn’t news, it’s no worse than it ever was, and in fact, the FCC is more tolerant than at almost any time in the history of broadcast TV. Jesus Chysler, Ozzie and Harriet didn’t even sleep in the same bed and couldn’t have said shit if they had a mouthful.

  12. Uh, I guess it’s probably better for your argument if you just ignored the FCC’s rules under Clinton. I guess you should also disregard Bono’s use of Fuck at the 2003 Golden Globe Awards where the FCC enforcement committee ruled that the word fuck was OK because it was an adjective and spontaneous (the committee was overruled). From the

  13. Who the hell are the AFA anyway, and more to the point, what makes a person think that way? I mean, not to get overly Freudian or anything, but did someone rub their noses in fecal matter at a young age, or what…?

  14. Lamar, okay, I’m wrong. ūüôā

  15. I recall full nudity being broadcast uncensored in primetime when NBC played Shindler’s List unedited-and the same busy-bodies type complaining about it back then as well.

  16. “Gauguin the Savage,” broadcast network TV movie in the 80’s, had nude (and possibly underage) actress(es.)

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