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Oh … er, shoot. Potty-mouth TV an issue for the Supremes

Submitted by on Wednesday, 5 November 2008 No Comment

Disclaimer: I can cuss like a sailor. Probably better than some. A roommate and I once formulated the ultimate swear word, a compilation that would have made George Carlin blush. We could roll it off our tongues at Chipmunk-like speed.

Ay, but those times have passed, except for in quiet moments after bedtime when I trip over one of the ^$*@)!@ Thomas trains a guy has left in the middle of the ^$*@)!@ living room floor. I have to admit those outbursts are cathartic after a day of living with Disney language.

Except even Disney language these days goes into territory that would have gotten my mouth washed out with soap when I was a kid. Exhibit One, Lightning McQueen: “Don’t leave me here! I’m in hillbilly hell!” Nouveau fuddy-duddy that I am, I cringe every time I hear it.

Because I believe kids shouldn’t learn swear words as a part of everyday vocabulary. Let them wait until they go to college like I did. They’ll pick it up quickly enough when they’re pushing to finish a term paper at 3 a.m. and their ^$*@)!@ typewriter correction ribbon dies. Except they’ll know nothing about typewriter ribbons.

Actually, I’m lying. I learned about the f-bomb when I was 12 and read “Ball Four” for the first of a million times. My mom didn’t know what the book was about. She thought it was just a story about the New York Yankees, and as a fan shaped in the Mantle-Maris era, she was all in favor of it. He he he.

But I still knew better than to say it. I fear too many kids today are missing that point. Which is why I’m with the Bush Administration on FCC v FOX TV, a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case stems from f-bombs celebrities ranging from Cher to Nicole Ritchie to Bono have dropped during live broadcasts. As the agency that governs the public airwaves — which FOX uses to its economic advantage — the FCC started fining broadcasters after Bono’s brief 2003 outburst.

The decency standards are nothing new: They’ve been around since 1920 and currently prohibit potty mouth between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., when children are most likely to be watching.

The stepped-up enforcement is relatively new, though, coming in the wake of Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction.” And the fines are higher, increasing from $32,500 to $325,000 in 2006. No wonder broadcasters are squawking.

They claim they shouldn’t be responsible for fleeting f-bombs dropped during live broadcasts, and they claim it’s also unfair that they’re regulated while cable stations are not. Sorry. Them’s the breaks when you use public property for private benefit.

And I know that HBO, Showtime, etc. are going to be littered with dirty words during prime time. That’s why those stations were never on when the guys were awake. I don’t expect it or want it on FOX, NBC, CBS or ABC.

I think the Bush Administration is grossly exaggerating the potential when its lawyers warn justices that softened enforcement could lead to Big Bird laying an f-bomb, but I agree with their bigger point.

In this house, we have a $5 fine for folks who make the air blue when the guys are around. I like that the FCC does the same thing with broadcasters who make public airwaves blue.

It’s not a First Amendment issue for me. It’s one of taste and common sense.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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