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.