By Hollie McKay
If you thought that our television channels were already saturated with enough sex, vulgarity and profanity, you may want to brace yourself – the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing changes to its guidelines that would allow more racy content to infiltrate the small screen during hours when kids could tune in.
A public notice posted on the regulatory agency’s website last month said that FCC is launching a review that may end the prohibition of expletives and certain images of nudity on television. The FCC had first given the public until May 20 to weigh in on the hot-button issue, but that deadline was recently extended to June 19.
And in overwhelming numbers, Americans have been quick to express their outrage over the potential changes, which could pave the way to more adult themes on prime-time programs. The FCC has received almost 95,000 comments on this proposal, whereas the next highest active proceeding has a mere 320 comments.
“Today’s television programming already goes well beyond the content parameters most parents find acceptable. No parent, after watching a program with their children says, ‘you know, that sure would have been a better program if they’d only thrown some nudity and profanity in there,’” said Bryan Fischer, director of issues analysis at the American Family Association. “The pressure is coming from the broadcast networks, who don’t want to be accountable to anyone for content. But the airwaves are owned by the American people, and the FCC is supposed to be a responsible steward of the airwaves for their true owners.”
So what exactly would the potential changes mean?
“Prime time television will start looking more like cable television in terms of language and content,” John Conway, entertainment attorney and CEO of Astonish Media Group, told FOX 411’s Pop Tarts column. “I’m sure networks will test limits for ratings as they do now, but I think the American public will keep the worst outrages in check as they do now.”
And in an Opinion piece for FoxNews.com last week, Penny Young Nance – who most recently served as President of Nance and Associates and as Special Adviser for the FCC – stated that it was “unfathomable to think the FCC actually wants to allow more filth, such as frontal female nudity, the F-bomb, and the ‘S’ word on broadcast television during hours when our kids will be watching and listening.”
The Parents Television Council (PTC) is expressing concern over the FCC’s proposal, as well. The organization declared last week “#NoIndecencyFCC Week,” and encouraged the public to file comments to the Commission and tweet their concerns.
The PTC, along with a 75 member coalition representing millions of Americans, also sent a letter to members of the U.S Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the U.S House Committee on Energy and Commerce, urging them to oppose the FCC’s proposed amendments to weaken enforcement of the broadcast indecency law.
“There’s an enormous amount of TV content that parents are going to find problematic, offensive or even harmful to their children. The broadcast indecency law is only meant to deal with the worst of the worst TV and radio content to begin with and now the FCC says it doesn’t even want to deal with that,” said Dan Isett, director of public policy for the PTC.
“It would be grossly irresponsible for the FCC to allow this. If the FCC drops the standard, the networks will give us all the profanity and nudity they think they can get away with, and they’d just keep pushing the envelope,” Fischer added.
On that note, there is some concern that if the changes pass, the increase in lewd and body-baring programming could have long-term effects on young viewers.
“We can debate what those effects are, but we know that the harm exists,” Isett insisted.
However, Conway argued that the projected deregulation probably would not be any more detrimental to children that what is already being showed in movies, cable, videogame, the Internet and other media outlets.
“If there is harm being done, it is probably already being done elsewhere,” he said.
But if there is a silver lining to be found in the proposed changes, Jim Steyer, CEO and Founder of Common Sense Media – an organization that seeks to provide families with trustworthy information and education – said the changes could encourage parents to be more aware of what their kids are watching.