Don't look now, but a barrel of common sense seems to have rolled through the front door of the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC is finally upset over the issue of filthy cursing on broadcast television.
At first, David Solomon, the head of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau rendered a decision allowing the "f-word" on the public airwaves if used as an adjective but not a noun. After a public outcry so loud that Congress is preparing hearings on broadcasting indecency, FCC Chairman Michael Powell reversed course. He threw Solomon's decision out the window, and then declared publicly that fines for violating decency standards should be increased tenfold, from the insignificant $27,500 to more than $250,000.
"Some of these fines are peanuts," Powell said at the National Press Club. "They're peanuts because they haven't been touched in decades. They're just the cost of doing business to a lot of producers, and that has to change." That's a very welcome declaration, and it's good to see the general drift in the FCC toward common sense -- that an F-word is an F-word is an F-word, and it doesn't matter whether it's a noun or an adjective, or whether it's uttered in the present tense or the past subjunctive. It's still unacceptable profanity for free, over-our-airwaves TV.
But the problem stubbornly remains with the broadcasters. NBC deliberately chose to air Bono riffing about his Golden Globe being "f---ing brilliant," and has never apologized. Moreover, it has called the tens of thousands of American parents who have protested to the FCC, and who represent tens of millions more, "logically bankrupt." Nice P.R. move, that.
NBC could have just issued a simple apology, and that would be that. Instead, it lobbied furiously that the F-word was but an "adverbial intensifier" that fit well within the fine legal points of not referring to a sexual or excretory act. That's a laughable argument against common sense. And it's an insult to any parent trying to teach a child the difference between right and wrong. Just imagine:
"Hey, Mom, what a f---ing awful day I had at school!"
"WHAT did you say, Tommy?!"
"Mom, get with it. It was an adjective , not a noun ."