There are many times I don't envy the U.S. Supreme Court on its task of deciding the constitutionality of cases brought before it ... and if the government should be monitoring, censoring and deciding what Americans can and cannot watch on their TVs is one of those times.
The lack of a clearcut right or wrong on the issue - as with most cases that end up before the Supreme Court - leaves me confused.
Both proponents to the ban on curse words and nudity on TV and those who oppose the ban, citing free speech, free expression, leave me shaking my head.
The bottom line seems to pit those who want the public airwaves to be controlled so Little Johnny can watch TV and his parents not worry about the F-word, the S-word or some degree of nudity popping up on the screen vs. those who say with 90 percent of TV viewers getting their TV programming via cable or satellite dish there is no real difference between an over-the-air channel and a cable channel when it comes to the viewer.
Then there is the inconsistency of the FCC enforcement of the nudity and cursing ban. It was OK with the government for "Saving Private Ryan" to have a multitude of vulgarity in its broadcast, but not for celebrities to utter the same words during live awards ceremonies..
According to the AP, "The FCC policy under attack flowed from the court's 1978 Pacifica decision, which upheld the FCC's reprimand of a New York radio station for its mid-afternoon airing of a George Carlin monologue containing a 12-minute string of expletives.
"For many years, the FCC did not take action against broadcasters for one-time uses of curse words. But, following several awards shows with cursing celebrities in 2002 and 2003, the FCC toughened its policy. It concluded that a one-free-expletive rule did not make sense as a way of keeping the airwaves free of indecency when children are likely to be watching television.
"The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York declared the FCC policy unconstitutionally vague.
"The Billboard Music Awards aired on Fox in both 2002 and 2003. Cher used the F-word the first year, and reality TV personality Nicole Richie uttered the F-word and S-word a year later. The FCC did not issue a fine in either case but said the broadcasts violated its policy.
"The 'NYPD Blue' episode led to fines only for stations in the Central and Mountain time zones, where the show aired at 9 p.m., a more child-friendly hour than the show's 10 p.m. time slot in the East."
The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision on the case in June, but just as in the issue of pro-choice vs pro-life, it seems highly unlikely either side in the issue will be pleased, no matter what the court decides.
What seems counterproductive to me is the government attempting to decide an issue that easily can be decided by the American public. If the public doesn't want nudity and cursing in programming, they can flip the channel or turn off the set. If enough viewers take those action, the programming will die and the advertisers will pull their support for programming that includes the unwanted behavior.
After all, advertising dollars drives TV programming, whether it be over-the-air or cable.
Contact Jim Smith at email@example.com