It would have been preferable to leave the government out of this popular-culture equation, but it came down to federal intervention after Hollywood’s absolute refusal to live up to its stated commitment at self-regulation. The networks’ offerings of a ratings system and V-chip were as fatally flawed as they were calculated: Hollywood knew these would do nothing to protect children from the barrage of filth that Hollywood is dumping on the public airwaves right in front of impressionable youngsters. The V-chip relies on the flawed ratings system. The ratings are inconsistent, inaccurate, arbitrary and unreliable, not just across the various networks but even within networks themselves. Parents simply cannot rely on these to protect their children.
It’s important to state this bill Bush signed does not change in any way the current broadcasting decency standards. It only increases the potential fines for egregious violations, like strip teases during Super Bowls, deliberate droppings of the "f-bomb," and the like. Just about anything short of that will fail to trip the sensors at the FCC. Turn on your TV tonight and you’ll find the broadcast airwaves filled with filth, garbage rising right to the line, but not over that line, that could trigger a penalty.
That’s Hollywood’s commitment to self-regulation for you.
And how’s this for that commitment to self-regulation: The four largest networks and 800 of their affiliates quietly have gone to court demanding the right to air the f-word and the s-word on the public airwaves any time and anywhere they wish, no matter how many children are watching.
CBS is going even further. After the Janet Jackson striptease, the head of CBS was hauled before Congress to explain himself. After apologizing for violating the public trust, this man announced to great fanfare that CBS now had a "zero-tolerance policy" toward indecency. That same network has now gone to court to appeal the subsequent half-million dollar fine it incurred, now arguing there’s nothing indecent about a woman stripping off her clothes in front of tens of millions of impressionable children during the Super Bowl. That’s self-regulation, Hollywood style.
Ultimately, the massive increase in potential federal fines became a reality for one reason, and one reason only: Hollywood cannot be taken at its word.