Court Not Buying FCC's Claims Over Indecency Fines

from the where-are-the-parents? dept

As many of you are aware, the FCC in the last few years has spent an awful lot of time on television indecency issues -- though they seem to do so not because of any real offense, but because certain family groups flood the FCC with complaints, often long after a TV show actually aired. The FCC refuses to give TV broadcasters any guidelines or preview any content, noting that that would be "censorship." Instead, they give vague guidelines and will only fine you if you fail to meet the hidden standards. The networks are fighting back in court, and it looks like the FCC isn't looking very good so far. In court hearings yesterday, the 3-judge panel blasted the FCC on a variety of points, noting that their hidden standards are really no different than censorship -- and, if anything, are worse, because it's just a game of "gotcha." However, even more to the point, the judges questioned why the FCC feels the need to take over the parents' role in policing what children see on TV, noting that it's the parents' responsibility to monitor what their kids watch. Basically, they say that if parents are worried about what kids are watching in their bedrooms, the parents shouldn't allow TVs in kids' bedrooms. In other words, it's the parents' responsibility to protect the children, not the government's. The judges also point out how silly it is to hold a separate standard for broadcast TV (the only thing the FCC really has the authority to regulate), when there's so much more on cable and satellite which the kids are probably watching anyway. While that could just open up the FCC to pushing for greater authority over cable and satellite TV (as some politicians would like), it's worth remembering that the FCC's mandate is only over public airwaves -- not private ones, and any change would face tremendous resistance. While the case is still ongoing, it certainly looks like the court took a pretty hostile view to the FCC's usual reasons for fining broadcasters over indecency.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 9:34am

    Way To Go Janet, Thanks once again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

     

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  2.  
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    Neum, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 9:35am

    Thank God!

    It's about time some in government noticed that it was the parents job to raise the child and not television. I wonder how many genuinely unhappy people would have been happier if they had a little more attention from mom and dad.

     

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  3.  
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    Solo, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 9:45am

    Breath of fresh air!

    It's appaling that people have nothing better to do than watch TV in the first place, but complaining about what they watch, willingly, is even worse.

    Turn off the TV. Problem solved.

     

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  4.  
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    Kyros, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 10:33am

    OMFG! Our government is doing something right! I think it should require a license to have children...

     

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  5.  
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    jiohdi, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 10:37am

    freedom of speech anyone?

    or is that another myth? too many are offended over too much these days... while no one has the right to insite to harm another, everyone has the right to change channels

     

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  6.  
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    John, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 10:49am

    Can't we have BOTH?

    Can't we have both, better policing by parents AND a deceny standard?

    Everyone thinks the role of society is to facilitate everyone's right to do whatever they want... in fact, that would be chaos. Societie's role is to create a standard that everyone rises to.

    I think the the US populace SHOULD create guidelines limiting what we can see.. and not a watered down "lowest common denominator" but something that actually reflects our values.

    I'm prpbably gonna get blasted for this view..but that's what I honestly feel.

     

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  7.  
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    haywood, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 10:52am

    Re:

    "I think it should require a license to have children..."

    So suppose a girl has no license but gets pregnant anyhow; do we lock her up, force her to abort....???

     

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  8.  
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    Joe Schmoe, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 10:56am

    "Basically, they say that if parents are worried about what kids are watching..."

    A - F'in - men!

     

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  9.  
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    Chronno S. Trgger, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 11:01am

    Re: Can't we have BOTH?

    Yes exactly, but the government should have nothing to do with it. The channels will know when they have gone too far by all the complaint letters or the drop in viewership.

    hopefully this trend will continue and parents will take a more active role in there children's lives

     

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  10.  
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    whargoul, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 11:03am

    Re: Can't we have BOTH?

    I think the the US populace SHOULD create guidelines limiting what we can see.

    Let me rephrase that so I can agree with you: I think the the US populace SHOULD create guidelines limiting what we can see over public airwaves.

    ...something that actually reflects our values...

    My values are probably not the same as your values.

     

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  11.  
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    Baal, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 11:04am

    Re: Can't we have BOTH?

    As everyone is entitled to their opinion...I dissagree with the decency aspect. Don't like what you see....change the channel or turn it off. It's that simple. Why take away from the rest of the public that do want to see that. We pay our taxes just like you, we have just as much of a right to see it as the next person. The turn the channel or turn it off idea only hurts the networks ratings and mabye gets your fingers a different type of workout then on here.

     

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  12.  
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    Chris, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 11:04am

    Watched on CSPAN

    I was flipping through the channels and actually watched this a few nights ago. It was amazing how the FCC attorney couldn't hold up his end of the argument when the judges started asking questions and pointing out their double standards. It was great.

    BTW, apparently you can say Fu** on CSPAN because the context is completely different than Fox, so the FCC won't fine CSPAN for one of the judge's remarks.

     

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  13.  
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    AMP, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 11:06am

    Re: Can't we have BOTH?

    "but something that actually reflects our values"

    I think this is where we would run into trouble. Who is "our" in this sentence? This is an extremely diverse country. Coming up with one set of values based on what the poplace decides would be next to impossible. IMHO.

     

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    Indie, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 11:07am

    Re: Can't we have BOTH?

    Not blasting you, but no two people in the world share the same opinion about everything, so that's potentially 300 Million different value sets in the United states alone.

    Thanks to our capitalistic society, TV will never get out of control. If a network airs something that is extremely offensive to people, then advertisers will threaten to pull their money because they don't want their products to be associated with something that pisses people off. The system has it's own set of checks and balances and doesn't need an organization looking over it's shoulder.

    And think of what we'll be missing out on if people are too afraid to share their art or vision with the world because some organization will fine them. Put it out there and let the people decide if they like it or not!

     

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    Chris, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 11:29am

    Re: Re:

    I'd say yes to the forced abort and lock both the mother and father up, or at least sterilize them both.

     

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    Bob, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 11:32am

    Re: Can't we have BOTH?

    could you do me a favor and tell me what your guide line would be?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 11:36am

    Being a parent, when the TV's is on in the living room and I am sitting there, there are times it's really hard to lunge for the TV in time to stop the F-Bomb or someone get shot and blood squirt everywhere, which is why we don't watch HBO when the kids are up.

    Personally I think the FCC is pretty much full of crap, but I do want something to help me as a parent to be able to find a program that the whole family can watch. Ratings are good, that comes from the FCC. I say the fines are when they violate the rating that the Network gave the program. i.e. the F-bomb cant accidentally happen for a show that's for 'all viewers'
    I'm all for channels that are not censored, but there needs to be something to HELP the parent. Parenting is tough enough...a little help is nice.

     

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  18.  
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    Guy, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 11:45am

    Re:

    It's really time that we start using the f-word like crazy and rob it of all it's power. As the most intelligent species on the planet, and possibly the universe, we shouldn't be afraid of saying or having our children learn something as trivial as a word.

     

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  19.  
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    Frink, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 12:00pm

    Re: Re:

    I totally agree with you except when you say "the f-word". If you really mean what you say then by all means feel free to say fuck. For example:

    Fuck the FCC and the holier-than-thou censorship groups.

     

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  20.  
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    Wizard Prang, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 12:31pm

    Problem: Solution

    ...which is why we don't watch HBO when the kids are up

    Looks like you have found a workable solution...

    The bottom line is that the networks will do whatever brings in the viewers and the advertising dollars. They don't care if they annoy you as long as you keep watching. When people start switching off in drives they will start worrying about their "strategy" - not morality, as they are largely amoral.

    I don't have kids to worry about offending, but I don't care much for gratuitous swearing or blasphemy, and I will not tolerate that kind of language in my living room. Swear at me and I will change the channel.

    Having said that, since I got a TiVo, this has largely ceased to be a problem.

     

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  21.  
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    Makes sense to me, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 12:32pm

    Re:

    "Being a parent, when the TV's is on in the living room and I am sitting there, there are times it's really hard to lunge for the TV in time to stop the F-Bomb or someone get shot and blood squirt everywhere, which is why we don't watch HBO when the kids are up."

    My guess is that if the concept of censorship at the government level was removed we would see a rise in technology and services that will repair this situation.
    Part of why it does not work this way is that the time and money that would be spent on such things is being wasted trying to censor.

     

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  22.  
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    jester, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 1:26pm

    politics of the thing

    The actions of the FCC are just a manifestation of the neo-con outlook of the world. It's obscene to flash a human female brest for a fraction of a second, but it's just fine to start a war on the basis of lies and distortions that have resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of human beings. THAT is obscene.

     

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  23.  
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    Ron, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 2:01pm

    Government Censorship

    Most newer TVs have a V-Chip that will help the parents control what their children watch, and the cable and satellite boxes have parental controls that do the same thing, so what is the problem??? Oh, that's right, I forgot, most parents either are too stupid to use them or just don't want to be bothered!

    If we control what can be broadcast to 'our' standards, I hate TV sports shows, soap operas, and reality shows, so lets get rid of those! (Like someone else asked, who's standards??)

    This reminds me of when Dimension (Cox) Cable had the Playboy channel as a premium, and due to customer complaints about the content quit carrying it. If the customer was watching the content, they either were ordering and paying for it or they had hacked their box to receive all the premiums. The company should have just investigated the complaining customers instead!!!

     

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  24.  
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    Mike, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 2:12pm

    "The actions of the FCC are just a manifestation of the neo-con outlook of the world. It's obscene to flash a human female brest for a fraction of a second, but it's just fine to start a war on the basis of lies and distortions that have resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of human beings. THAT is obscene."

    Even though this is a horrible way to say something that is actually true (the neo-con perspective and values), it's true.

    Too many people out there are too worried about what everyone else is doing and saying, instead of taking care of themselves. You can NOT control what others do, and every attempt in history to do so, has inevitably failed, even when the oppressed were brutally tortured.

    Free will and the power to exercise free will is one of the inherent rights of all men and women on this planet. And free will will always trump censorship and totalitarianism in the end.

    As cliche as it is, if you don't like it, change the channel or turn it off. Parenting is the parents responsibility, not the governments.

    You are not allowed to tell me what I can and can't watch, or what I do and don't allow my children to watch. In fact, your rights to tell me what to do in any aspect or facet of my life are non-existent, unless I am causing physical harm to you.

    The pendulum swings from one extreme to the other, as history shows. Hopefully we are beginning to wake up from the extreme we've been at under the Bush Administration and begin to inch back to the moderate center. As we inch back into the center, I believe that we will hear less about these trivial things and more about important matters, like Global Warming, Genocide, stem cell research, etc.

    God help us all if we don't get back to the center. Remember, extremism breeds extremism, no matter who "starts" it.

     

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  25.  
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    proxinator, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 2:26pm

    Re:

    there IS something to help the parent. several somethings. channels made especially for kids and families. you won't hear the F-Bomb on disney channel. disney, nickelodeon, toon disney, cartoon network (before 10pm), nick at nite, fox family, pbs, and many many others...

    The FCC can police PBS all it wants. but leave primetime fox alone.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 2:48pm

    Re: Government Censorship

    The V-chip is a joke in my book. While it serves a purpose, the last time I looked at it, it didn't reflect accurately the content it was supposed to block. There are several shows on Nick (for example) that are not properly blocked, due to someone at the network not marking it a particular (aka: correct, at least in my mind) way.
    My solution: I blocked the whole channel. Call it what you will, but I'd imagine there are others that do the same.

     

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  27.  
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    The infamous Joe, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 2:49pm

    I am not a parent.

    What's wrong with the word fuck that a child cannot hear it? Does that word immediately corrupt a young mind or something? I've always been confused-- I mean, if I said "frick" instead, it still has the same MEANING as "fuck"-- doesn't it?

    Again, I'm not a parent-- maybe it's something you learn in the delivery room... I'm not trying to offend or anything, I really don't get it.

     

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  28.  
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    Doug, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 3:10pm

    Well

    It's been medically proven that actual curse words or any word that has a negative feel to it, such as a replacement to a curse word affects the body the same way. Negative emotions and outbursts such as cursing can actually retard a person's immune system. While on the other hand, using positive words in a positive meaning will have a positive affect on your body.

    Besides that, no one likes negativity, and that's all cursing really is.

     

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  29.  
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    The infamous Joe, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 3:30pm

    Re: Well

    Mr. Doug, I've certainly heard the word fuck used in a way in which I, at least, found it very positive.

    However, in dealing with my first question, I find your answer lacking, sadly, due to no fault of your own, but only because I highly doubt the FCC and their soccer-mom legion are worried THAT much about my immune system.

     

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  30.  
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    AMP, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 3:35pm

    Re: Well

    What a bunch of bull shit.....

     

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  31.  
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    David, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 4:16pm

    Re: Can't we have BOTH?

    You mean as long as it is something that reflects "YOUR" honest values?

     

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  32.  
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    Chris, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 6:49pm

    FBOMB

    What's wrong with the F-bomb? The first time your toddler says it, you have to hold back from laughing, the second time they say it...you think hmmm...where else are they going to say it? Preschool? Grandma? Your Boss? Everyone says it's not a big deal, then when they hear it...everyone says, wow those parents aren't even trying. It's a respect thing, giving a toddler or a young person the vocabulary to shock all these people is like giving them a weapon.

    Try being a parent, everyone seems to think it's a walk in the park and all things that your child does relates to bad parenting. I say...think about your past. Think about what you did when your parents wern't looking...are you blaming your parents?

    As far as the FCC thing, there is a line that has to be drawn somewhere. Did you break a law when filming it? then don't show it. (i.e. Snuff videos, rapes, etc.) None of that ever should be played on the airwaves.

     

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  33.  
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    Chris, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 6:49pm

    FBOMB

    What's wrong with the F-bomb? The first time your toddler says it, you have to hold back from laughing, the second time they say it...you think hmmm...where else are they going to say it? Preschool? Grandma? Your Boss? Everyone says it's not a big deal, then when they hear it...everyone says, wow those parents aren't even trying. It's a respect thing, giving a toddler or a young person the vocabulary to shock all these people is like giving them a weapon.

    Try being a parent, everyone seems to think it's a walk in the park and all things that your child does relates to bad parenting. I say...think about your past. Think about what you did when your parents wern't looking...are you blaming your parents?

    As far as the FCC thing, there is a line that has to be drawn somewhere. Did you break a law when filming it? then don't show it. (i.e. Snuff videos, rapes, etc.) None of that ever should be played on the airwaves.

     

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  34.  
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    Okie From Muskogee, Dec 23rd, 2006 @ 11:37am

    "Family" groups?

    The groups who bombard the FCC with orchestrated complaints about "indecency" shouldn't be called "family" groups. Sure, they call themselves "pro-family" because it makes them sound warm and fuzzy but they're nothing of the sort.

    What kind of people sit around counting dirty words and pretending shock at the sight of a female breast? They are sick, twisted, authoritarian busybodies whose religion teaches them to worry more about my morality than about their own.

     

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  35.  
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    ted, Dec 25th, 2006 @ 2:19pm

    arn't shows rated?

    Correct me if im wrong, but i seem to remember seeing a BIG black box with white text at the begining of every show telling me what kind of content i can expect.

    now if the FCC wanted to issue a fine when a show has content that is not noted, then great. it should, and it should be a HUGE fine.

    but i think we all know the real problem is, PARENTS. well bad parents that is. you know the kind, the ones that use TV as a baby sitter, the ones that have a TV in their kids bedrooms(right next to the computer most likely). Next time the FCC wants to fine a TV show for "innaproprate" content, they should also fine Jane "i'm 13 and dressed like a slut" Doe's parents for letting her out of the house looking like an Abercrombie model.

    I am all about a license to be a parent. (as for teen pregnecy, no forced aboritions, they can either get a license or give up the kid.)

    There is nothing worse for the future of this country then poorly raised kids.

    just my $.02

     

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  36.  
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    Don, Dec 27th, 2006 @ 7:51am

    More info

    Penn & Teller: Bullshit! did an episode on censorship and FCC standards. It is worth taking a look if you are interested.

     

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  37.  
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    Chris, Dec 27th, 2006 @ 8:00am

    Free our freedom!

    I am an adult. I want full frontal nudity on tv at night. Is there something wrong with that? They don't seem to have ANY problem with that in Europe or Asia. I want to see my freedoms come across on my TV in the form of ugly, hot, beautiful and everything inbetween. Free the arts! Disband the FCC!

     

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  38.  
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    mike, Dec 27th, 2006 @ 8:19am

    Re: Re: Can't we have BOTH?

    >>Yes exactly, but the government should have nothing to do with it. The channels will know when they have gone too far by all the complaint letters or the drop in viewership.

    this does not really work, Howard sterns fan base was made of 2 groups, 1) that listened because they liked him and 2) the listened because they disliked him but wanted to know how far he would push it.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 27th, 2006 @ 8:22am

    Re:

    You can screen the content ahead of time before the children see it. Either record broadcast TV shows to a DVR or use pre-recorded DVDs. This will also limit the time the children spent watching TV. A few hours per week is enough time.

     

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  40.  
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    shinderpal jandu, Dec 27th, 2006 @ 8:22am

    TV is on its way out.

    Are the tv network executives in power going to be in for a shock.
    They had followed a formula of programming to sell ads.
    A cash machine.
    Look at the future market - kids growing up.
    Their tv useage is way down in favour of a more interractive medium - communicating on the intenet

     

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  41.  
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    littleShadow, Dec 27th, 2006 @ 8:39am

    Re: ..hard to lunge for the TV

    I'm a parent as well. My views most likely differ greatly from yours on attempting to shelter my son from something rather than teach him what it is and how to deal with it but even if that weren't the case, don't be so lazy.


    There's a fairly reliable rating system in place, use it. When that's not the case, watch it first without your child, or just don't watch it at all.


    The bottom line is that my choices should not be limited to make life more convenient for you.

     

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  42.  
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    Joe, Dec 27th, 2006 @ 8:51am

    I'm glad to see mention that the public actually owns the airwaves, not the stations who have been given the right to public spectrum for "public benefit." (Ever notice the "public service announcements at 1 AM to fulfill that "technicality" that wasn't intended as technicality at all?)

     

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  43.  
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    Joe, Dec 27th, 2006 @ 9:00am

    Re: Well

    "Besides that, no one likes negativity, and that's all cursing really is."

    Yeah, I don't like negativity either! ;-)

    Actually, one might wonder, why war, police, and crime shows so popular if people dislike negativity.

     

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    Me, Dec 27th, 2006 @ 9:04am

    Yay

    The FCC is going down once and for all... it's time this country gets with the program, so to speak, and realizes that we don't live in the 1950's anymore.

     

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  45.  
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    ramdu, Dec 27th, 2006 @ 9:19am

    Re: politics of the thing

    leave it to a liberal to throw "Anti-Bush" remarks at something totaly unrelated.

     

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  46.  
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    Hukt on fonics werked 4 me, Dec 27th, 2006 @ 9:19am

    Can't we have regulations for good grammar and proper spelling on the web? That would keep most of you idiots from posting.

     

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  47.  
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    someone else, Dec 27th, 2006 @ 9:59am

    I for one don't want to live in a world that's safe for a 10-year-old...I'm not 10; as an adult, I have adult tastes & sensibilities. I'm not offended by the words I hear; I'm more offended by the ideas I hear the words represent.

    Don't make me live my life according to your beliefs & I won't make you life your according to mine...You probably wouldn't like mine anymore than I like yours.

    It's your responsibility to raise your children, not mine, nor is it the governments.

    If you're afraid that something will harm your child...Keep them in a cage in the basement where they belong! And please, please if you must take them out in public...leash & muzzle them like the animals they are.

     

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  48.  
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    LocalH, Dec 27th, 2006 @ 10:03am

    Re: Watched on CSPAN

    You can say fuck on C-SPAN because it's cable. The FCC has no authority to fine C-SPAN in the first place, even if they were to hypothetically broadcast hardcore porno.

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 27th, 2006 @ 10:03am

    offensive things we obvioiusly must ban

    these things are clearly offensive and must be banned: violence, greed, excess, cruelty, psychics, superstition, and christianity.

    what's that you say? some of these things don't' offend you? i'm offended, that's enough for me.

    let's face it, nearly everything, if not everything, is offensive to someone somewhere.

     

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  50.  
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    Brad, Dec 27th, 2006 @ 10:31am

    Re: Can't we have BOTH?

    "limiting what we can see"... I find this phrasing extremely interesting.

    There are many governments around the world that limit what their citizens can see. Kim Jong Il does it in North Korea, the Ayatollah does it in Iran, and China does it very well on the Internet.

    As soon as you say that you want limits on speech and what people can watch on TV it is a very fast slippery slope down to the likes of the people above.

    With Freedom comes Excess. If you want to truly be free you can not impose limits on speech.

    Also, the US already has established values with regard to this topic. It is call the First Amendment. It is intended not to protect the majority of society but the minority, who oppose the government and want to protest without fear of being imprisoned because of their ideas. (Of course this means that people like the KKK and Nazi's are allowed to speak their minds, but it helps to ensure that the best ideas rise to the top and are not crushed by government.)

     

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  51.  
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    ralph Kramdon, Dec 27th, 2006 @ 2:50pm

    Re: Can't we have BOTH?

    "Can't we have both, better policing by parents AND a deceny standard?"

    No! I'm single and have no children so don't tell me what is good for the children, I DON'T CARE. It's up to the parents to raise their offspring not government, or people that choose not to have children. If something offends me I turn the channel. Parents should learn to do the same, or use the V-Chip, but don't put the burden of raising YOUR children on the rest of society.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
    identicon
    Max, Dec 28th, 2006 @ 12:21am

    Re: Can't we have BOTH?

    Dude.. Thats ridiculous.. The government has no right UNDER THE CONSTITUTION to censor free speech. Why don't we just burn the documents you freedom hating shitbag.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
    identicon
    Janette, Dec 28th, 2006 @ 8:55am

    Family Groups Use Children As An Excuse

    Don't get me wrong, I don't hate children, even though I don't have any. But the so called "family groups" who talk about the need to protect children from TV, Radio and the Internet are just using that to rile people up so they can hide their true agenda. They just don't want it on TV, Radio and the Internet and want to control the world. Yes, the world. They don't want to rule the world, too much responsibility. No, they want the world to be a G-rated, G-D centered and when they say values they really mean Christian values. That means, every TV show would have the moral that Christianity is the answer. It would villainize Muslims, Jews and any other religion that isn't Christianity.

    Now I have nothing against Christians either. But I wish that the Family Research Council and the American Family Association would just come clean about their real agenda.

    Ever read "A Handmaid's Tale?"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2007 @ 5:09am

    Re: Re:

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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