Contradictory? Unconstitutional? Arbitrary? Hey, it’s the Federal Communications Commission baby.
The FCC oversees all types of broadcasting, from TV to microwaves and began their TV meddling with Charles Jenkins who got the first U.S. TV license in 1928 and aired the first TV commercial in 1930, “for which he was promptly fined by the Federal Radio Commission, the predecessor of the FCC,” the FCC boasts.
Knowing they didn’t wait five minutes to tyrannize Jenkins, it didn’t shock me to hear Kevin Martin, an FCC commissioner, wrote that without censorship, “Hollywood will be able to say anything they want, whenever they want.”
Maybe it didn’t occur to Jenkins that that was the actual goddamn point.
Luckily for us, the FCC is fighting freedom in California so we don’t have to fight it at home.
Casualties in the war on expression include radio outlets like Infinity Broadcasting, fined $27,500 after Howard Stern and pals used slang for sex; WONE, nailed for $7,000 for a joke about a baby and a butcher knife; and a station that aired obscene humor—in Spanish (Holy el shitto!) FCC toadies translated the jokes into a $22,400 fine.
The term “De Facto” escaped FCC vocabulary when they wrote, “The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Section 326 of the Communications Act prohibit the FCC from censoring broadcasters. The FCC … enforces the prohibition on obscenity, indecency and profanity in response to complaints.”
The FCC has determined, a la supreme court ramblings that, “Obscene material is entitled to no First Amendment protection.” Furthermore, “It is a violation of federal law to air obscene programming at any time. It is also a violation of federal law to broadcast indecent or profane programming (From 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. also known as the safe harbor.).”
I’ve watched me a lot of TV over the last few decades and I can say with most certainty that there is a whole lot of material—from faith healers and congressional hearings to reality television and poorly practiced journalism which I find far more obscene than any nudity or colorful language.
I had to grab my magnifying glass and spy harder at the decaying parchment to see the U.S. Constitution’s hours of operation printed clearly under each amendment. Despite the assertion of partially free speech only applying between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., I could find no such caveats. But, then, I’m not a professional censorship enforcement agent, so what do I know.
Just to show they have a sense of humor the FCC adds, “The Commission is careful of First Amendment protections and the prohibitions on censorship and interference with broadcasters’ freedom of speech.”
Some will ever posit that freedom coaxes the worst of mankind but listen close and hear the wails of those uneasy with freedom.
“But Gohs, what’s to stop malicious rumors or someone yelling ‘Al Gore’ at a Republican picnic?”
Both slander and incantation of Al may goad physical or fiscal harm, but both are examples where the victims invite no injury.
Conversely, when we voluntarily engage entertainment outlets, we lose all claim to indemnity.
Just like hard drugs, rich food or wild women, we use TV and radio at our own risk.
The oft spoken, seldom used solution for transmission of perceived transistorized transgressions is simple: Turn the channel or turn it off—behold the perfection of parsimony.
Regardless of realistic solutions, the FCC is here to stay, so you should understand its flowchart on how they will handle your complaint if’n the mood strikes.
1 – You hear a joke on FM radio about an amorous judge with a shoehorn, a skunk, three Presbyterian midgets and six pounds of 90:10 garden fertilizer.
2 – Being a law student and shorter half-brother of a Minister of the Word and Sacrament, with large feet and who is allergic to polecats and could not grow stink on a corpse let alone tend a fern, you decide to rush an e-mail detailing your deep psychological scarring from having heard the joke to the FCC.
3 – While he cares not about the rodent’s age, his honor’s fascination with little people or the length of the shoehorn, the FCC chairman must punish someone for mentioning intercourse and excrement on the air—his own mild arousal notwithstanding—and, per protocol, forwards a transcript of the joke to his grandmother.
4 – If granny gasps, faints or clutches her chest, the joke is sent to a three-man committee made up of Pat Robertson, Sean Hannity, L. Brent Bozell and the ghost of Joe McArthy who then host ritual sacrifices of at least eight calico kittens to the dark underlord who, in turn, compiles a 689-page dissemination of the violation.
5 – The FCC, which according to a 2004 report by professor Jeff Jarvis, has been caught artificially inflating the numbers of complaints received, will then assess fines ranging from $7,000 to $3 million—I may have artificially exaggerated flow chart steps three and four.
In part two we’ll discuss the benefactors of rabid FCC regulation, and by “we” I mean those pint-sized triplets.
Now if I can just locate my shoehorn.