Cursing Up a Storm
The past month played host to a number of indecent televised incidents: 12 people filed complaints with the FCC in response to the President's latest slip, while ESPN has mandated a 5-second delay on all Little League games, after a naughty-mouthed minor dropped an audible f-bomb in the dugout during a live broadcast (thanks Amanda). The uppity Parents Television Council (PTC) was quick to fire off a complaint to the FCC regarding a phrase uttered during the 2006 Emmy Awards Ceremony, broadcast on NBC. The offending comment? Award winner Helen Mirren proclaimed, "My great triumph is not falling ass over tit coming up those stairs." Historically, "tit" is a no-no, but I was more interested to discover that a cowardly L.A. Times article about the incident sidestepped printing even a censored version of Mirren's statement. It appears that the paper does not have an internal policy against printing the word "tit," but I'm guessing that the FCC's murky and ominous approach to broadcast indecency is now scaring writers into washing their pens off with soap.
Interestingly enough, the FCC itself is admitting some fault for their ever-changing adoption of indecency standards: Commissioner Adelstein, who has often noted first amendment concerns in FCC indecency rulings, admits that the commission went too far in its last set of decisions. The commission at large has asked a federal court to delay a hearing brought on by mutliple TV networks, alleging that the FCC's March 2006 indecency orders were unconstitutional. Tail between legs? Perhaps change is just around the bend, but I'm curious to see what happens when CBS re-airs the award-winning documentary 9/11 this weekend, which is peppered with profanity. Will affiliates puss out and wait to air the film during safe harbor hours? Will they refuse to air it entirely? Or will stations air the film as planned, possibly inviting millions of complaints to the FCC from conservative christian members of the American Family Association?
Silence on Tomlinson
A senate committee is refusing to allow controversial chair of federal Broadcasting Board of Governors, Kenneth Tomlinson, serve another term. Last year, Tomlinson resigned from his position with CPB following a trail of rumors (later confirmed by a federal probe) that he had secretly hired a buddy to analyze public TV programs for liberal bias, and using federal resources to support his horse-racing hobby.
A Bottom Line for Non-Com?
Dallas/Ft Worth-based Daystar, a religious television conglomerate, has sued the Coast Community College District in Southern California for choosing to sell its public TV license for KOCE to the foundation currently running the station for a lower bid. The court ruled the sale void, based entirely on economic principle. I'm not quite so sure that handing a local, non-religious, community-run station to a high-bidding, religious multicaster from across the country is really in the public's best interest...
The Value of Localism
In other media ownership news, the FCC began a series of hearings to sample the public's opinion of relaxing media consolidation rules. If a recent meeting in L.A. was any indication of the country's opinion at large, the answer is a resounding nay.
Popular, independently-owned rock station WOXY (Cincinnati, Ohio) was sold two years ago, but their internet stream lived on with listener support, eventually experimenting as a subscription-based service with ads to generate income. The stations finances have been on a steady decline, and as of September 15, 2006, WOXY.com will be no more.