We've Got Hollywood Covered

Don’t Relax TV Indecency Standards, Viewers Urge the FCC

Broadcasters are pushing for looser standards so that they can better compete against cable programming

Broadcasters push for the Federal Communication Commission to take a more relaxed attitude toward nudity and cursing on broadcast TV is getting a strong pushback from the public. The FCC is getting deluged with feedback from those opposed to any easing of its heightened indecency standards.

The FCC has already received more than 80,000 comments since it called for feedback earlier this month, most of them urging it to stand firm against any lowering of public standards.

"Over the past 50 years our society has become steeped in profanity and indecency and to a point television programming has reflected this decline," wrote Jane Smitchger, whose town wasn’t listed on the FCC site. "Today a line must be drawn over which we must not pass."

Sarah Malmin said she was writing as a concerned mother of two young daughters.

“I do not want them to believe that it is acceptable for people to use four language or watch shows with even a few seconds of nudity," she wrote. "It is very offensive to be surprised by profanity or nudity while watching TV. These are not the values I want to impart to my children.”

The fight over the FCC’s indecency standards comes as broadcasters turning more edgy programming to win back cable viewers run into FCC indecency restrictions that cable programmers don’t face.

The Supreme Court last year rejected broadcasters' attempt to overturn the FCC's indecency standards as outdated and a violation of the First Amendment. Instead, the high court overturned the FCC’s attempt to ramp up indecency standards on technical grounds. The court said the FCC hadn’t given broadcasters adequate notice before starting to view so called "isolated" instances of nudity and profanity on TV as violating the agency’s indecency rules.

The high court action overturned the FCC’s attempt to chastise Fox for two Billboard Music awards shows in which Nicole Richie and Cher uttered expletives and to chastise ABC stations for airing pictures of actress Charlotte Ross' bare buttocks on a 2003 episode of ABC’s "NYPD Blue."

After the ruling, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski dismissed nearly 70% of the FCC’s indecency complaints and sought comments on what new standard to adopt.

Also read: FCC Considers New Policy for Policing Broadcast Indecency

Among the questions the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau asked was whether the FCC should only pursue egregious indecency — instances in which content demonstrates “deliberate and repetitive use in a patently offensive manner.”

Broadcasters have yet to submit their comments. So far almost all the comments filed have urged the FCC against easing its standards.

“Please discourage nudity, explicit bedroom sex scenes, showing how to kill, show people having sex after meeting someone and disrespecting elders, nasty sarcastic children backtalking and living to squalor,” wrote Agnes Bolt of Tecumseh, Mich. “Please help people to educate their children with respect for boundaries.”

John Dardis of Hammond, La., urged the FCC to act.

“I request that the FCC stick with a very strict interpretation of isolated expletives and nudity, or if changes are made, to be more strict in its interpretation. I have no faith in the television and movie production industry to self regulate this issue and to be concerned about what viewing families see and hear,” he said.

One letter writer, whose signature can’t be read in the handwritten copy of his comment the FCC posted online described himself as a grandfather of seven, urged the FCC not to act.

“In the name of all that is good, I am asking you not to,” he wrote. “There is more than enough filth, garbage, violence sex on TV already. Do not reduce the indecency standards. The morals have already reached the gutters and sewers,” he wrote.