The Corner

Swearing on the Idiot Box

I expect there will be some disagreement on this, but despite the overly-cute “Bush and Cheney swear too!” line of reasoning, I think yesterday’s ruling against the FCC regarding speech codes for network television is a good thing. I think the FCC has good intentions here, and I’m somewhat sympathetic to the complaints of family groups who don’t want four letter words on TV. But it seems to me that the best way to solve these sorts of difficulties isn’t with federal speech codes or setting up bureaucracies that determine, for the entire nation, what words are and aren’t appropriate. And, in fact, you can look at unregulated television markets like the pay-cable channels to see how things might work in the absence of any government intrusion. HBO, for example, tends to run kids shows (or movies) on Saturday morning and save the R-rated fare for later in the evening. The network could run whatever it wanted during the day, but it generally sticks to less graphic fare—not because it has to, but because it’s good business. I don’t see why the same wouldn’t occur on networks if given the chance. For more, Jeff Jarvis has a typically good analysis (warning, some profanity).

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