A Fine Mess at the FCC

Last week President Bush signed legislation that will increase the fines broadcasters pay when their programming exceeds “the bounds of decency.” For language or imagery the Federal Communications Commission doesn’t like, the over-the-air media faces penalties as high as $325,000 per incident — a 1000% increase beyond the former maximum.

This legislation is the climax of a two-year campaign waged by the protectors of our pristine culture — Focus on the Family, et. al. — to cleanse radio and television of sexually explicit content and “offensive” language. The cataclysmic event that triggered the clean-up crusade was the 2004 Super Bowl, where Janet Jackson, doing what many of our beloved performers do to compensate for a dearth of musical talent (i.e., emphasize their sexual desirability), flashed her breast in an infamous “wardrobe malfunction.” That shapely brown tit brought our nation to its collective senses, and the caretakers of our airwaves (and by extension our morals and our children) have now taken powerful measures to reign in the heathen broadcasters who would corrupt the populace with evil sights like a female nipple.

At the signing ceremony, Bush said the new law would force the communications moguls to “take seriously their duty to keep the public airwaves free of obscene, profane and indecent material.” Theoretically, this means “stuff they show in screwed-up places like Europe.” Practically speaking, though, one has to wonder where footage from our country’s folly in Iraq fits into the President’s standards. By almost any measure the words and images coming out of Baghdad daily qualify as obscene and indecent, the visual proof of a wildly immoral republic run amok. (Never mind the Abu Ghraib dossier, which is the wartime equivalent of bestiality videos.) Thankfully, Federal law prohibits the TV networks from showing the coffins of dead American soldiers arriving back home to their devastated families. At the new pay scale, broadcasting every one of these monuments to obscenity — all 2,521 officially recognized military deaths — would cost a naughty network more than $800 million in fines.

Our nation, allegedly built on Christian principles, remains obsessed with sex and violence. (Need proof? Channel-surf a randomly selected hour of primetime TV.) Only one of those twin provocateurs, however, warrants a fine from our trusted thought police. Thank God for that!

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