Sunday, March 02, 2008


One-letter Four-letter Words

By "One-letter Four-letter Words" I mean, of course, "four letter words that aren't permitted" in FCC-regulated media, and even in the press are often only "identified" by one (first) letter: the f word, the s word, and whatever others there may be.

Why has the FCC suddenly become so zealous? Hope that if they do a super job policing media that are in decline (those carried over the "public" airwaves--traditional radio and TV), they'll be asked to police media with a future? Isn't the NSA already doing that? Ah, yes, with the rise of mobile media (selfphones, WiFi media devices) content is once again using the "public" space, so that should be covered by the FCC's charter. (Incidentally, why isn't satellite radio in their portfolio of governed media?)

These thoughts were triggered by a third event in a relatively short timespan, the article "Supreme Court may rethink broadcast indecency" in the Los Angeles Times.
The issue before the court now is delicately described as the problem of "fleeting expletives" in over-the-air broadcasts, which are still regulated. TV viewers who watch the entertainment industry's awards shows may be familiar with the phenomenon.

I remember "issue" this from the WYBC vs FCC (or was it the other way around?) case stemming from the live, unexpurgated coverage of news events during the demonstrations in New Haven, CT, in 1970: some of the leaders speaking to the demonstraters said an F-word, and WYBC was covering live, no seven-second delay to allow an on-line editor to bleep "when appropriate". WYBC won, as I recall. A thought: oughtn't the media remove the sounds of rockets and gunfire whenever they occur? I think they are at least as obscene as words: "sticks and stones (and bullets, mortar shells, rockets, grenades, land mines) may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." The article tends to confirm my memory:
News programs and movies such as "Saving Private Ryan" have been given exemptions. Including profanity from soldiers on the D-day beaches was not intended to shock or titillate, the FCC said, but help "convey the horrors of war."
Evidently, awards shows are not considered "news" by the FCC, but entertainment. Right. Who writes the scripts?

C-word: The second event (penultimate trigger) was the news (on Valentine's Day) that Jane Fonda, in relating how she became involved in the "V-word monologues" -- s-word! that doesn't work! the v-word has more than four letters! -- used "the c word" live on the Today show. Honestly, how many people watching that show at that hour are so unfamiliar, uncomfortable, or both with that word to be offended? How many didn't even recognize the word, and so couldn't be offended? For my part, I didn't see the show (but there are several videos uploaded to the web now), just read about it. And I wondered, THE c word? Rooster and Thinkpad button are okay, there is A c-word and they are not It? One learns something every day. And what of the three-letter c-word that was the subject of one of Lenny Bruce's monologues: how should one refer to such a three-letter word?

L-word: Today I watched a video of a TV panel discussion, in which someone said "if you got married to get laid...": is that an "L-word" or is it admissible? Is there another L word?

D-Word: In the 1970's, buttons and bumper-stickers said "Dick Nixon before he dicks you". Is that the "D-word"? I guess not, VP Cheney was allowed to campaign, and he d-worded us in more orifices than we knew we had.

The first event was news relayed to me by someone else shocked by this idiocy:

The half a hundred ABC affiliates hit with indecency fines over a February 2003 episode of NYPD Blue have filed an appeal with the FCC, telling it why it should rescind the fines, no buts about it.

According to a copy of the filing obtained by B&C, the stations argue that the bare female behind that prompted those fines--which totalled about $1.4 million--was a ³simple depiction of non-sexual nudity,² and that mere nudity is not indecent either as a matter of law or as a matter of community standards.

In the Jan. 25 order, the FCC had said ABC had not argued convincingly or sited any authorities for why the buttocks was not a sexual or excretory organ, saying ³that runs counter to both case law and common sense. "

And mouths, tongues, hands are still proper to show? Skin, for that matter, is an excretory organ: perspiration, etc. How would I argue convincingly or find authorities to site [sic: should have been "cite", as in "citation", not "sitation"] for why my eyes (which excrete tears) are not a sexual or excretory organ? Perhaps I should shop for a burka for men before I next enter the U.S.A., just in case.

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