Aiming to set some standard, any standard for decency on television is not an easy business. Trying to cover the issue as a reporter is apparently just as difficult. But it's sad that reporters write stories that lead to ridicule of the anti-indecency "censors," while they feel the need to censor out the subject matter that's central to the debate.
See the wave of stories that emerged last week after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) bundled 36 complaints organized by the Parents Television Council and threw them in the wastebasket, dismissing them as perfectly acceptable television moments for small children. Unless you work at the FCC, you'd have almost no idea what complaints were rejected. Why? Because reporters failed to describe the episodes in question and censored out the indecent language from the TV shows in their news stories.
In the Washington Post, reporter Paul Farhi wrote: "A number of the denials focused on the nickname -- also a slang term for the male sexual organ -- which increasingly is working its way into television scripts." Farhi provided an example: "the agency ruled that it was not indecent when, during an Oct. 30, 2002, episode of the WB's 'Dawson's Creek,' one character says to another: "Listen, I know that you're [upset] at your dad for flaking on you. It doesn't mean he's a bad dad, and it doesn't mean he doesn't love you." Prompting another character to say, 'No, it just means he's a [nickname/slang term for male sexual organ].'"
In the Washington Times, reporter Chris Baker passed along: "Several of the episodes cited were from shows such as 'NYPD Blue,' 'Dawson's Creek' and 'Boston Public' in which characters use a term that can be interpreted as another word for 'jerk.'" Baker couldn't even be specific enough to tell readers that this term for jerk is also the word referring to the male sexual organ.
How vague can the "news" get? This is especially weird since impressionable children are not exactly running down the driveway in the morning to read the saucy words in the Business section of the Washington Post or the Washington Times.