Paul Jacob

Oh, great and mighty Federal Communications Commission, save us from the evils of our culture. Police the airwaves so that 280 million Americans see and hear only what we want to see and hear.

But how is the system working for us? Seems the FCC is having the same stellar success enjoyed by so many other government agencies.

The fact is the FCC has not, will not and cannot save us, or our children, from violent and sexually inappropriate images, crude language or a steady stream of immorality on radio and television. After Janet Jackson?s breast-bearing performance at the Super Bowl, hasn?t that been dramatically demonstrated?

Crash Course in Crass Culture

Jackson?s indecent exposure is not nearly so out of place as many of us wish it were. Though, like many of you, I had the good sense to preemptively turn off the halftime show, reports (including pictures) cause me to believe the finale of Justin Timberlake tearing off Ms. Jackson?s top was preceded by even more repulsive material.

Many of the commercials, I hear tell, were even worse. One advertisement for a coming horror movie showed what media critic Tom Shales described as "extremely disturbing and graphic images of brutality and gore." This while 1 in 5 children in America, aged 2 through 11, were tuned in to the Super Bowl broadcast.

Michael Powell, chairman of the FCC, was quick to launch an investigation. "Like millions of Americans [90 million by estimates], my family and I gathered around the television for a celebration," he said. "Instead, that celebration was tainted by a classless, crass and deplorable stunt. Our nation?s children, parents and citizens deserve better."

Yes, we do. My wife and I do not allow our children to watch programming that might be otherwise suitable, because the commercials that punctuate the programs advertise violent and deviant movies--or highlight the most titillating coming attractions on TV. A culture of garbage is not the sole province of the Super Bowl; it has become endemic.

Now, it is not as if the FCC has been doing nothing. Recently, the FCC announced a fine of $755,000 against Clear Channel Communications for sexually explicit radio broadcasts. In the last three years, Chairman Powell has imposed more fines on stations for violating indecency regulations than the two previous FCC chairmen combined.

But would anyone in their right mind suggest that the appropriateness or, dare we say, morality of radio and television has improved?

Limits and Limitations

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.