Guest post: FCC wants to allow more swearing, nudity on TV

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.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

27 thoughts on “Guest post: FCC wants to allow more swearing, nudity on TV

  1. My take: David’s compromise is reasonable, but there are limits to what a government agency can do to protect your kids from the filth that passes for “entertainment” these days. There is no substitute for parents proactively monitoring what their kids are watching and doing.

    This might be a good opportunity for readers to give advice on what they do in their homes regarding entertainment options. We do not allow TVs in the kids’ rooms and watch very carefully what they watch on the TV. In addition, no video games. Relying on a government agency like the FCC to “protect” us seems guaranteed disappointment.

  2. My children are still very little, so we only watch preschool programming. Not much controversy there. However, we’ve been debating if we wanted to become a ‘Zero TV’ house and drop our satellite and go with Netflix and Amazon Prime for our small TV consumption. If the FCC did drop the bans on those things, I think that would push us to be a Zero TV house. Which is interesting, as the networks are scrambling to get Zero TV homes back to their networks, which is not going to happen if they keep their old business models. This is the fifth or sixth time I’ve seen this now, so I am going to go and make a comment.

  3. The entertainment market will continually narrow into two options: 1)family friendly 2)anything goes. It may be that if you want to be in category 1 you may need to rely, as you say, on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Btw, we probably spend 70 percent of our time with those two options. The only things we watch on TV these days are the TIVO’ed recorded shows we like (“Big Bang Theory,” “Revolution,” “Go On,”) and the occasional sports event and…General Conference.

  4. I like it. Anything that moves away from government interference is good in my opinion. It forces people to be agents unto themselves and to stop relying on the nanny state to make sure they are safe from offensive material.

  5. Besides concern for children’s welfare, there should also be a concern for civility among adults. Not swearing at people or performing lewd displays is civilized behavior, and a culture that can’t limit such things is in a degraded state.

    The suggestion in the last paragraph is more or less how I remember broadcast TV 40 years ago. Shows for everyone including kids were on until 9 PM. Stuff like MASH and Kojak came later in the evening. Johnny Carson cracked people up with sex jokes starting at 11:30, while the local independent station (coincidentally owned by Johnny Carson) competed by showing Benny Hill chasing topless women.

  6. Even with current TV standards, I don’t plan to let my children watch TV unsupervised. Nor do I really plan to allow live TV to stream into my house. In our current cultural climate, that to me is a recipe for disaster.

    No TV program will enter my house passively. If my children are watching it, it will be because I selected and obtained it. That is with or without this change in policy—even children’s TV (such as the Disney channel), while it may not have graphic violence or sexuality, subtly teaches messages that I simply don’t want to indoctrinate my children with.

  7. David Fergueson is absolutely right, but is being a bit too pussy footed in my opinion. He says: “Society generally recognizes.. blah blah…aren’t things childrens should be exposed to…” What society “generally” recognizes, should be the law in a Democracy. These sorts of changes by the FCC should be made to be politically accountable, and cencorship should reflect the will of the majority of the people, not the will of whatever lobbies happen to be exerting the most muscle at some particular moment.

    Currently, there is an uneasy alliance between libertarians and conservatives, but issues like these should show where people’s true allegiances lie. Conservatives should not fall for the libertarian argument that parents should be the only one to excercise censorship for children, leaving those without diligent parents to be brutalized by market forces which foist addictive pornographic images upon an unsuspecting populace in order to sell more product.

    David says, “changes in the censorship policy would force most parents to radically alter their TV usage, IF, of course, they want to protect their children.”

    That “IF” is the whole point of the argument. The simple fact is that many parents don’t care enough, or don’t have the mental and emotional resources to put up a fight. Censorship protects children (just a little bit) from imperfect parenting, of which there is a lot, including from the best of parents. And parents need all the help they can get.

    “I’m not sure we want government policies that complicate childrearing.” I understand what David is saying, but that’s a misleading and ironic way to put it. Government policies don’t “complicate childrearing.” Lack of government policies complicate childrearing. Censorship is liberal government policy, plain and simple. We collectively put it there to protect us from ourselves, to protect our children from us, and to protect all of us from some of the addictive, pornographic forces of the free market, which would make us all slaves to their products. Freedom does not bring freedom. Complete freedom brings bondage.

  8. I share your concern. I just wish most of my Mormon friends were half as concerned about guns as they are about nudity. Frankly, if I had to choose between the two, I’d take the nudity.

  9. Let’s face reality.

    Broadcast commercial TV is losing market share abysmally in the effort to compete with cable, which is not saddled with those tired old euphemisms that are so outre. Resistance is futile. Abandon all those outdated restraining standards of stodgy octogenarian conservatives. You owe it to yourself to live a little. Roll a doobie and kick back. Let your hair down.

    (“I am no devil, for there is none”, he whispers.)

    Go with the flow, and let your kids develop a tougher skin.

    They’re gonna need it. [Queue creepy maniacal laughter…]

  10. I’d agree to more nudity and swearing if I could trade it for a ban on “The Bachelor” and similar marriage competition reality shows.

  11. People still watch TV?

    I’m kind of surprised this is even an issue. It can’t be too long now before TV and cable figure out that the best way to do business is to make a show available for streaming or broadcasting at a certain time, and then allow the viewer to access the show for several weeks thereafter (like Hulu, but for every show).

    In any case, as TV shows are already rated, parents need to keep an eye on the ratings and on what their kids are watching. If FCC changes its rules, parents will still need to keep an eye out.

    We don’t actually get TV reception, although we watch plenty (too much) TV through vidoes/DVDs, Hulu, Amazon, etc. Much easier to watch when it’s convenient for us to do so.

  12. I would guess that very few of Don’s Mormon friends have been injured or threatened by a gun while almost all have at some point experienced unwelcome nudity. By the same token, perhaps those concerned about trifles like gun violence should give more thought to super volcanos, killer asteroids, and mass extinctions.

  13. John,

    Two families in my homeward were affected by guns in a big way–two of their young children found a loaded pistol and played around with it. One child died, the other will be forever scarred by the incident.

    I was in a tiny ward two years ago. While I was there, one of the sisters in the ward told us her brother, who lived in the ward boundaries but was not a member, had been shot in the head. An injury he was lucky to survive, although it will affect him seriously for life.

    A bit more serious than a little unwelcome nudity, don’t you think?

  14. I know several people who have used guns to protect themselves from intruders and attackers and saved countless lives — both theirs and the people around them. These people — and most people in my ward — see guns as a tool for protection, and none of them have mindless fear of an inanimate object that cannot do anything unless it is picked up and shot. Don’s apparent fear of guns does not resonate with people who have used them to save lives, and he apparently has no ability to understand that the gun itself is not the problem.

    If Don meant that he is concerned about gratuitous violence in entertainment these days (a lot of the time, this violence includes the use of guns), then I agree with him.

    Nudity is mostly gratuitous in entertainment these days, and the harm it does is significant, although more subtle. All we have to do is listen to the many warnings about pornography from modern-day prophets to understand that a “little” nudity can lead to an addiction that can harm families and marriages.

  15. Children old enough to be without constant and direct supervision are also old enough to be taught the NRA’s “Eddie Eagle” rules of gun saftey:
    If you see a gun: 1) don’t touch, 2) leave the area, 3) tell an adult.

    Any child old enough to walk to school or a park or around their neighborhod on their own is also old enough to learn the 3 “Golden Rules” of gun safety, plus the seven additional rules that the NRA teaches.

    There’s even a pro-gun book called “Gun Proof Your Children” by Massad Ayoob. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0936279052/vietveteofamer29/ref=nosim

  16. I don’t understand the unreasonable fear of guns. With 300 million guns in circulation in the US, clearly only a miniscule percentage are being used for nefarious purposes. I think nudity has more potential to kill off a culture than guns do.

  17. Knowing how you should act around a gun and actually acting that way are two entirely different things. Especially when it comes to boys. And especially when an adult isn’t right there, watching them.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/story?id=132159&page=1#.UWdiBTc084Q

    I don’t have an issue with mentally stable people with no criminal history owning guns, as long as they store them safely. (Safely meaning unloaded and locked up). But I do think many Americans have an unhealthy fetish with guns.

  18. I oppose any changes to the current FCC indecency standards that would allow television and radio stations to broadcast expletives and nudity on the public airwaves, even if brief or “fleeting.”

    The Supreme Court has confirmed the FCC’s authority to enforce policies regarding expletives and nudity, especially during times when children are likely to be watching or listening.

    Relaxing the current policy would not serve the public interest and I urge the FCC to reject all proposals that would allow for the broadcast of expletives and nudity on FCC-licensed stations.

  19. I, for one, will stop watching TV from any channel that advocates nudity and swearing. Neither one of these is necessary for good wholesome clean television watching. Swearing adds nothing to any conversation except to show one’s ignorance of the English language and an inability to express one’s self with educated language. Nudity on TV is only for men to oogle and lust after and pre-teen boys will wonder what they’re missing and try having sex before they are emotionally ready to handle adult situations and therefore, the abortion rate will excel or at least, births will increase due to the wonderment of sex exploitation on TV. I wonder why people, who are for this, think their rights are being violated? They can sit and swear all they want watching TV in their homes…just leave it there. Someone has to speak up for the decency of human beings and must separate ourselves from the animals that we’ve become by lowering our standards of life and decency. Anything they can’t do in front of God should be banned. Period.

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  21. This makes me glad I do not have a television more than ever. Its not good company.

  22. In my opinion we need to clean up where we can clean up. We’re raising a generation of kids that have no limits. It’s getting worse by the day. The “f____” word is used to freely on Facebook and other social media. Kids use it so freely, that they hardly know they have spit it out. Nudity can bring nothing but the fruits of immorality. Why promote something that is morally harmful in developing character of youth and aiding and abetting phycho problems with pedophiles & other sex perpatraitors.

  23. Why would you insist on allowing more nudity and profanity on television when so many parents and even more kids can get watch it. Do you honestly think that putting naked men/women on TV is a good thing to do? It gets teenagers more sexual and more abusive with what they say and do. sure you could argue about parents putting on parental controls and blocking those channels, but the fact is that they aren’t.

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