Wednesday, July 12, 2006

FCC Picks on Sports

It all started when Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake introduced to us the all too familiar "wardrobe malfunction". And now, the FCC wants to regulate televised sports, punishing broadcasters for the vulgar remarks of fans (H.T. Drudge). It's a step too far.

Readers of this site will know that I refrain from the use of vulgarity because I feel that it has no place in the kind of discourse that I try to have here. But I can control what gets said here. Live programming is something quite different.

It is one thing to punish a broadcaster for indecent language in a sitcom. It is premeditated, can be edited out, and really has no effect on the final outcome. It's quite a different thing to control live broadcasts where a loose-lipped fan whom nobody can control lets slip a loud comparison between a referee and an excretory organ or product, inquiries into his parentage, or some other vulgar comment designed to express dissatisfaction with the official's ruling.

The problem is that while the effect on Hollywood may indeed be positive--discouraging premeditated and entirely preventable crudeness that they have been trying for years to cram down our throats--it may actually have a chilling effect on live sports because it is altogether impossible to predict and prevent the transmission of all inappropriate fan behavior. And the fact that there are complaints rolling in means that the whiny prude crowd is afoot, looking and listening in for any indication of naughtiness broadcast over public airwaves and then reporting even the least indication of it.

Yes, the acts of Janet and Justin were truly inexcusable. But the law was not designed to cater to the puritan who wishes to punish the network whose microphone picks up someone in a crowd running their mouth.

I think indecency on TV and radio is entirely disgraceful. There is no place for it and no need for it. It lessens us. But planned vulgarity is entirely different from an unplanned remark that was never intended to be aired.

The FCC is there to perform a service for the American people by punishing broadcasters who knowingly and willingly allow inappropriate material to be aired. It's not there to apply the rule so strictly as to make it impossible for sportscasters to bring us live coverage of games because fans may end up saying too much.

There's regulation and then there's over regulation. This is the latter. it would be nice if the bureaucrats in Washington took the time to understand the difference.


Anonymous Scott said...

it’s one thing to fine Al Michales if he signs off with, “Thanks for watching Monday Night Football, you Mother F***rs! Goodnight!” But to fine FOX because Joe from The Bronx let off with a few choice expletives after the Yankees lose to the Red Sox in 14 innings?

5:41 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

Sports fans throughout America should be outraged at this government action. Live broadcasts of sports events are enjoyed by millions of Americans on a regular basis. Taking fans out of the NASCAR cockpit or off of the NFL sidelines will seriously diminish the quality of the broadcast.

I'm a Red Sox fan, but hearing 60,000 Yankee fans chant "Who's your daddy?" at Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS added to the immediacy and suspense of the action. If network censors block out the roar of the crowd, the broadcast quality will be as sanitzed as hospital cuisine. Next thing you know, the government will find Packer fans' cheesehead helmets indecent.

The Cleveland Browns' end zone fans should do us all a favor and pelt our blessed government with thousands of dog bones over this one.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Lawjedi said...

Rarely have I ever had such a great series of comments. The whole point to live sports is that we get the immediate action. Scott's take is beautiful, and probably derived from "Anchorman". And yes, it's very unlikely that a stadium full of tired fans, invested in a long and close game wouldn't choose more libertine language after such a disappointment.

Those reporting accidentally-captured cursing need to grow up. Stop watching sports. Because you actually have to be really listening carefully and looking for it to hear it. The rest of us and our kids are more concerned about the next play.

8:10 AM  

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