The most memorable moments during the 2002 and 2003 Billboard Music Awards on the Fox television network weren't performances: They were the remarks made by recipients and presenters.
Actually, in both instances it was a single word. In 2002, the singer Cher responded to her critics by using the "f word." A year later, Nicole Ritchie, who has no apparent abilities of any kind, used a similar word when talking about her show, The Simple Life. The Federal Communications Commission ruled that both utterances were "indecent," but it did not fine Fox. Nevertheless, Fox appealed the FCC's ruling.
A few weeks ago, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Fox. The three-judge panel, by a 2-1 vote, noted that the FCC had previously not cited or what it deemed were "fleeting" uses of profanity. It ruled that the FCC "had not adequately, or constitutionally, explained why it changed its mind" on the matter.
The panel also expressed doubts about fining shows for the use of words which both the President and Vice President use in public. Ouch! A good reminder of how important it for leaders to set a good example. The panel's majority then "ordered the [FCC] to retool its regulations."
FCC chairman Kevin Martin said that he was "disappointed" by the ruling. He said that he believes that the FCC "had done the right thing in trying to protect families from that kind of language."
Tim Winter of the Parents Television Council wasn't as diplomatic as Martin: He called the ruling "an insult to the American people." He noted that only a year ago, "the House by a 10-1 margin and the Senate unanimously authorized the FCC to increase indecency fines ten-fold."
Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas doesn't intend to let the courts re-write the law. He has introduced two amendments to a Financial Services appropriation bill that would re-clarify Congress' intent and reinstate the FCC's ability to protect families during the time children are most likely to be watching.
One amendment would limit "excessively violent" images from being broadcast between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. If you "must" show a dead body being sliced open and its organs removed in a search for drugs, as a recent episode of NCIS did, wait until 10 p.m.
The other amendment would protect viewers of broadcast television from all indecent words or images, even if they are fleeting or only shown once during a broadcast. Again, if your idea of "creativity" "requires" the use of four-letter words or images, there are plenty of other mediums and times to express yourself other than on the air.
Brownback's amendments are necessary because the courts will seize on the slightest ambiguity to evade the will of the Congress and the American people. This is one instance where there's no such thing as "too explicit."
That's why we need your help. The votes on the proposed amendments are scheduled for July 12. Senator Brownback and I need you to call your senators on the tenth and eleventh.
Broadcasters are a powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. We need to remind our senators that, in our system, the people are more powerful yet. Insulting them isn't a winning political strategy.
From BreakPoint®, July 9, 2007, Copyright 2007, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint®" and "Prison Fellowship Ministries®" are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship