Brent Bozell

It gets more absurd. Everyone knows that the FCC decency policy was written specifically about showing or describing private parts, and the obscene words that can accompany that. But the ABC lawyers decided to play doctor and argue that the "excretory" definition in the FCC's enforcement regime is too vague, since the skin, which excretes perspiration, and the lungs, which excrete carbon dioxide, can both be defined as excretory organs. Only in the surreal world of lawyering can one believe a network will be fined by the FCC for showing sweat glands or lung X-rays on TV, and no one has yet invented profane words for exhaling.

The network lawyers love to argue that when Washington gets involved in Hollywood's attempts to entertain and/or corrupt the audience at home, their judgments are arbitrary and unconstitutional. "Community standards" are impossibly vague, and differ wildly from city to city, they claim. Whether the standard is consistent or inconsistent, what Hollywood wants is for it to be nonexistent.

If ABC station managers think that "community standards" are not being examined by the FCC, then why don't they take the initiative and discuss things with their community? Why don't they hold town meetings for concerned citizens and see what kind of feedback they receive? Try to find that community that believes it is appropriate to drop the F-bomb on children or show nudity on their programs. Find the inconsistency in community standards. I dare you.

It would be nice if right now, CBS stations actually asked the public, "Do you think we should air a show where the hero is a serial killer with a buzz saw?" Sadly, I think the answer might be shocking to them.

Station managers have always greeted community-engagement efforts as a make-work waste of time that used to be required to get their broadcast license renewed. Or they feel that the "community" they would encounter would not be representative of their audience. Their ascertainment of community interest is only measured one way: by ratings. That kind of cavalier laziness quickly leads to anything-goes TV, or anything that moves the ratings needle goes.

It's amazing that networks like ABC would be so high-faluting in their newscasts about good corporate citizenship. Their industry's lawyers may be able to confuse every obvious point, except this one: when it comes to watching out for the eyeballs of children, they're saying The Public Be Damned.

Brent Bozell

Founder and President of the Media Research Center, Brent Bozell runs the largest media watchdog organization in America.
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