Free Speech

by Leigh Beadon

Filed Under:
broadcasters, fcc, indecency, swearing

abc, cbs, fox, nbc

Broadcasters To FCC: Now That Our Audience Is Gone, Can We Swear More?

from the last-ditch-shot-at-a-pyrrhic-victory dept

Broadcasters are understandably sick of the fellas at the freaking FCC. It's 2013, but shows on the public airwaves are still forced to follow a weird pastiche of morality rules seemingly cobbled together from the standards of multiple different generations and interest groups. Not only are these rules extremely questionable in a country with free speech, they are plainly obsolete: everyone has easy access to the whole perverted rainbow of obscenity, and enforcing a moral standard of media is clearly a matter of personal and family responsibility. Public TV networks no longer have the influence on culture that they used to, given competition from cable, online media, and other things over which the FCC has no control — and, surprisingly enough, the broadcasters themselves are now making that very argument:

ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC also say that rules are archaic because the networks have lost so much cultural clout. Fox says in an FCC filing, “Americans today, including children, spend more time engaged with non-broadcast channels delivered by cable and satellite television, the Internet, video games and other media than they do with broadcast media.” In a separate filing, NBCUniversal observes that ”Broadcast TV is not a uniquely pervasive presence in the lives of 21st Century Americans.” Broadcast network affiliates’ total day share of viewing “was just 28 percent in the 2010-2011 television season – compared to the 53 percent viewing share held by ad-supported cable programming networks.” CBS also notes that “the day when a child watching television was almost certain to be watching broadcast television has long since passed.”

Looks like someone at the TV networks realized what year it is too. We may need to update the NBC business model:

Of course, what goes unmentioned is the fact that escaping FCC regulations is clearly part of a plan to regain relevance. Which is entirely fair. There are a bunch of reasons for the decline of network television, primarily technological, but the fact that so many top-level stars, producers and showrunners are flocking to the less-restrictive world of cable and the internet certainly can't be helping. Look at a huge network hit like Seinfeld: after that success, and with a virtual carte-blanche to experiment, of course Larry David would make his next show for a cable network like HBO. And as Julia Louis-Dreyfus once remarked in an episode of said show, "I want to be able to say fuck," so it's hardly a surprise that a show like Veep ends up on HBO too. Plus Veep's creator, Armando Iannucci, hails from the UK with its early watershed hour, at which point broadcast shows can do pretty much whatever they like — it's hard to imagine him wanting to work within the confines of FCC regulations either. That's a whole bunch of talent creating successful, critically-acclaimed shows — and not creating them for NBC, the network that spawned the breakout hit that got the ball rolling in the first place.

Let's hope the FCC listens. The networks have a whole lot of work to do if they want to regain real relevance, and they haven't always been good at it, but I have no desire to see them further hindered by obsolete morality rules pushed by the busybodies at the Parents Television Council (who, it will surprise nobody to learn, vociferously oppose these filings). Let's give NBC a chance to make the next Eastbound & Down or Lucky Louie. Let's let ABC scrap Dancing With The Stars in favor of Katherine Ryan's more innovative The Voice competitor, The Ass. And let's let PTC president Tim Winter squirm in the home theater throne from which he judges all that is wrong on the air, as the epidemic of pixellated nudity becomes an explosion of Game of Thrones-style sexposition. The broadcasters have enough problems already.

Reader Comments

The First Word

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jun 2013 @ 12:04pm

    Re: Re:

    2 things:

    1) You're missing the point. Sitcoms today are following the "formula" used by the 70's sitcoms verbatim. If people want to see those shows, they can look back at those old shows and in most cases, see just as good, if not better versions of them.

    2) Wait, you think that shows are inappropriate for kids, so the obvious answer is to show kids reality TV? O_o I think I understand now how those shows are surviving, people don't bother seeing the answer of, "watch something else not on TV" or "not watch something."

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