This is a guest post by David Ferguson.
For those of you who haven’t heard, FCC may modify its swearing and nudity policy. In short, the new policy will allow (a) isolated s-words and f-words in TV shows, and (b) short presentations of female frontal nudity. We’re not talking total debauchery here, but it isn’t something to blink at either.
You can find more about the proposed changes at this link. Fortunately, the FCC has opened the floor up to comments. The link shares instructions on how to file a comment. I encourage it.
I ended up having a Facebook conversation with a friend over this issue. He, a proud social liberal, thinks that the current censorship laws violate the first amendment right to free speech (although the Supreme Court upheld those laws). Like any other citizen, I put a high value on the first amendment, but we do our society a severe disservice by taking the first amendment to its extreme limits.
What many people seem to miss (generally liberals, but sometimes conservatives too) is that the first amendment has limitations. Society generally recognizes that nudity, swearing, and violence (which isn’t part of the FCC debate) aren’t things childrens should be exposed to, and the first amendment doesn’t give companies the right to expose children to this sort of content prematurely. That’s why the mpaa ratings exist. Whatever we think about them, there’s a reason for them, and it’s to protect our children. The point is, we expect the government to participate with parents when it comes to shielding children from adult material.
Critics, like my friend, point out that if parents don’t like what’s on the TV, they can turn it off. Generally speaking, it’s a valid argument, but it isn’t a good argument to validate lifting censorship laws. Parents should supervise their children’s TV usage, but changes in the censorship policy would force most parents to radically alter their TV usage, if, of course, they want to protect their children from exposure to swearing and nudity (which seems like a given). Radically might be a little strong, but maybe not. Most parents can’t supervise their children’s TV viewing habits all of the time. So the policy change would force them to make unusually demanding changes to their lifestyles. I’m not sure we want government policies that complicate childrearing, especially when it limits the normative habits of children and their parents.
In saying that, a pragmatic compromise may be the best option for this debate. A more reasonable, middle approach to the debate would be to relax censorship laws after midnight until, say, 4 AM.