The broadcasters are preparing yet another publicity blitz touting how they can help parents steer their way into a child-friendly television experience. But they're also saying out of the other side of their mouth that the parents have no cause for alarm, because no one really knows what indecency is.
Stop right there. Who in his right mind would suggest no one knows what indecency is? Here's Hollywood's super-lobbyist Jack Valenti: "No one today knows what is indecent."
That's just nuts. My 9-year-old son knows what's indecent. What Hollywood is trying to say is that no one should have the right to be an arbiter of decency, in government or in the private sector, or in the living room. Hollywood should have unlimited power to dictate whatever it wants, period.
The networks are not looking for guidance. They're not wounded victims of drive-by government seeking protection from puny pellets of fines. What they want is the legal right to prevent the public from exercising its rights as owners of the public airwaves. They are explicitly demanding the ability to drop F-bombs on children, whether it's airing at 8 a.m. or 10 p.m., whether the profanity is intentional or unintentional, whether it's an adverbial intensifier" (as NBC claimed in legal papers) or common back-alley verbal sewage.
They are waging war on the idea that the First Amendment has any limits for broadcasters, despite the long-standing legal precedents for limits as established by the Supreme Court. They cannot stand the fact that even liberal Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has declared that the First Amendment limits are greatest for broadcasters.
The broadcasters do have one serious political problem: the public. Despite the fact that broadcasters can make big money by shocking just a small percentage of Americans into watching their sludge, when the American public is polled, the vast majority is bothered by the sleazy tone of TV. Two-thirds of Americans say there's too much sex and too much violence. Nearly two-thirds are bothered by the obscene language they hear.
Whether the broadcasters ultimately win or lose the day, one thing is clear: looking at any night of TV demonstrates you can't trust their deeds. And with their words, now you know they have no standards, either.