It is 8:00 and you sit down to watch some television and relax as a family, but you cannot seem to find any family-friendly shows to watch. Does this scenario sound familiar? You may wonder what happened to all of the good, clean, wholesome family television shows.
It seems that every show I have started watching with my 11-year-old daughter, has ended up with inappropriate jokes and overtly sexual undertones. Even stations that you would think would have shows fitting for all age groups, such as the Family Channel, do not live up to their name. After 10:00, the shows get even worse. Material that used to be only be permissible in R rated movies, has now found its way to late night cable television. I have even begun to wonder if we still have FCC regulations anymore, because it seems like anything goes.
What exactly are the FCC Regulations?
The Federal Communications Commission is in charge of monitoring and regulating television and radio broadcasts. It is their responsibility to make sure that the specific guidelines are being met by both radio and television stations.
There are three main categories in which most cable broadcasts are subject to regulatory standards: obscenity, indecency and profanity. The first, obscenity, is not protected under the First Amendment because it has no artistic or creative value, therefore, it can be banned altogether. Indecent broadcast restrictions are defined as “language or material that depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities.” What this basically means is sexually explicit material that would be offensive to the average viewer cannot be shown between the hours of 6:00 am- 10:00 pm, when younger viewers may be watching television.
The next category, profanity, is the most commonly acknowledged regulation. We are all familiar with television broadcasts that have had to bleep out certain inappropriate expletives. Language falling under the category of profanity is described as “language so grossly offensive to members of the public who actually hear it as to amount to a nuisance”. This is a very vague standard and is subject to the interpretation of cable networks. Profanity, also, is restricted between the hours of 6:00 am- 10:00 pm. Both indecent and profane material are protected under the First Amendment because they are considered to add either artistic, creative or literary value to the piece. They, therefore, cannot be banned outright, only limited.
Contemporary Community Standards
So why does it feel like the standards for appropriate television have changed so much over the years? Well, the answer lies in the phrase, “contemporary community standards.” The regulations are the same vague regulations that have always been in place, however, they are based on what the community finds acceptable. If you are like me and the rest of the silent majority, then you are probably thinking right about now that there is a lot of programming that you would not necessarily deem acceptable.
The problem is that we are the silent majority, and television has had a gradual shift, so we accept a little more and a little more and do not do anything about it. If regulatory boards do not here complaints from the community, then they will continue to provide entertainment that they believe lives up to our generation’s moral code. Since children get most of their basic ideals from the media, this poses a major problem. If we want to impact our youth and bring back principles and core values from a simpler time, it has to begin with a change in the examples and role models we are providing for them. We cannot continue to complain about our youth, while providing them constant violent and blatantly sexual examples.
I am not one of those that feel that video games and television are to blame for violence, but I do believe that what we put into our mind can affect the person that we become. We are all influenced by the information and entertainment that we surround ourselves with, either for the good or bad. We must be the change we wish to see in the world. If we would like television programming that encourages our children to be upstanding citizens, then we need to stand up and let our voice be heard.
FCC, “Obscene, Indecent and Profane Broadcasts”, http://www.fcc.gov/guides/obscenity-indecency-and-profanity