May 06, 2009 03:17pm
by: M. Dickinson
Fleeting Expletives? Not quite... In a recent ruling that has enraged some, while elating others, the United States Supreme Court said it was permissible for the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to act as the nation’s media ''watchdog'' for public network television, and fine networks that allow expletives to air before 10 PM.
While many seem to act ''outraged'' and think this is a ''suppression'' of free speech, it really isn’t that big a deal or threat to free speech.
Free speech is your right to express your thoughts. You are free to do that. If you own a television show you are free to do that. If the network your show is on censors you, or threatens to censor you, for fear of fines from the FCC or for showing something against their own ''standards and practices'', go to another network or cable television. If you are an artist who is unhappy with network options? Start you own.
The days of people piling around the radio to listen to George Carlin’s ''Seven Dirty Words'' or Richard Pryor’s radio monologues are gone. Very few people use the public radio for comedy bits these days; except Rush Limbaugh, whose entire ''act'' of drug-induced news reporting is laughable. The radio is not how the majority communicates or entertains others with comedy or opinions these days. Any jackass, including myself, can buy a website, write material, and transmit it to the masses instantly. It bypasses the FCC altogether.
The same social migration to the internet, ''on demand'' shows/movies, and cable television, that has made public radio irrelevant, has spilled into network television. These days, the media market is not dominated or even dictated by the ''big three'' network television shows anymore. Simply put, if a network didn’t pick up the contract of a show like ''Family Guy'' because they were too offensive or incurred too many FCC fines, they’d simply move online, or to a cable network channel like Comedy Central before the end of the day, and be free from the wrath of the FCC.
As many know the traditional mainstream media, newspapers, television, radio, have been and are dying. Under this ruling, networks like USA and Fx can show Nip/Tuck in all its bare-assed curse word glory, while NBC and CBS will have to edit their shows by conforming to FCC guidelines or face fines, putting them squarely at a competitive disadvantage. Eventually, the companies that own the big four; General Electric (NBC), Walt Disney (ABC), National Amusements (CBS), and News Corporation (Fox Television), will tire of continually getting there asses kicked in the ratings, losing viewers, and losing advertising money to cable television channels. The result of this will be that they will rise up and exert political pressure to de claw the FCC. Why do you think that none of the big four channels has a problem with airing an alcohol commercial that those same children may see? Money talks.
The simple fact is that, the Supreme Court did not rule on the constitutionality of the FCC fining, and that should tell us something. There are lots of caveats. Such as political speech, pretty much all of which is protected under the first amendment. While it may finable if Nicole Richie, Lauren Conrad, Paris Hilton (or any other flavor of the month reality TV star) says ''Fuck'' or ''shit'' on a television awards show, the finability becomes murkier if the same says ''Fuck Scalia'' or ''Only assholes like Scalia''. That is political speech which has, and always will, enjoy a much higher level of protection.
In short this ruling from the Supreme Court is no real threat. The constitutionality of the issue remains, and this whole case will likely return to the court with the free speech angle presented. It is likely the Supreme Court knew this, and rather than ''de-teeth'' the FCC now, will do so later in the context of free speech. What else does the FCC do other than take phone calls from irritated people? If the Us Supreme Court was to issue a decision that based on the first amendment the FCC lost their authority to fine media networks, then a likely ''Wild Wild West'' of network media would likely happen where there was no authority.
FreeSpeechRevolution.com was founded by Mike Dickinson. If you want to be involved, offer ideas, or exercise your right to free speech and tell him you hate his ideas please email him at Mike@FreeSpeechRevolution.com