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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

FCC should curb the cursing

It’s time to drop the “f-bomb,” and in this case, “drop” means that the expletive has to go. While profanities, nudity and violence continue to become increasingly commonplace in popular culture, Federal
Communications Commission head Michael Powell made it clear that some words have no place on network television.
Powell was correct in overturning a decision issued by the FCC Enforcement Bureau that virtually gave television networks the go-ahead in airing curse words as long as they were uttered in a “non-offensive” context. A non-offensive way of spewing offensive words?
U2 lead singer Bono’s now infamous reaction after winning a Golden Globe award last year was ruled permissible because he used the f-word as a “fleeting” adjective that did not refer to any illicit sexual act, according to the FCC Enforcement Bureau. Consequently, NBC incurred no fines for letting the f-word slip through the filters and into millions of homes nationwide.
Bono was quoted as saying “This is really, really f—ing brilliant!” But, unlike what Bono was referring to, the FCC decision seems really, really, f—ing ridiculous.
Parents’ groups, including the Parents Television Council, were among the most vocal protesters of this incident, and rightly so. According to a study conducted by the organization in 2003, cursing and foul language increased 95 percent from 1998 to 2002 during the hour from 8 to 9 p.m., a time slot generally regarded as family hour. This insidious infiltration is unacceptable and America should be outraged.
While the Parents Television Council and some religious groups have taken a stand against lax guidelines of television propriety, the irresponsibility on the part of networks goes virtually unchecked due to a collective apathy on the part of viewers and even the FCC itself.
Newton Minnow, former FCC chairman, told The Los Angeles Times that because the panel has a penchant for “walking away from the issues,” networks are able to get away with more. Minnow blames this on “a combination of our own government’s fault, industry’s fault and technological change.”
Technological change? By far not the weakest excuse from the pro-Bono camp that, by the way, is anything but pro bono. Proponents of the original FCC ruling argued that much of the music being honored at the Golden Globes contained foul language and, therefore, Bono’s exclamation was hardly corrupting innocent viewers, according to CNN.com.
Critics are right to say that Americans – including children – are certainly no strangers to profanity on the screen; premium cable channels such as HBO and just about any movie over PG-13 are rife with cursing, including the f-word, the most taboo mono-syllable in the English language.
So if Americans want to hear cursing, let them buy premium cable and go to the movies.
While excuses for ignoring standards of decency become increasingly insubstantial, it is about time someone accepted responsibility and enacted change. Fortunately, Powell is doing just that. In addition to overturning the FCC’s earlier ruling, Powell demanded that Congress raise fines as much as 10 times for each indecency violation as an added deterrent for networks. The current maximum fine is $27,500, mere “peanuts,” according to Powell.
Bono is not the only star whose potty-mouth has caused a stir. Fox TV faced a similar incident when “Simple Life” star Nicole Richie avoided the censors when she said that getting “cow s— out of a Prada purse” was “not so f—ing simple.” Neither is figuring out what to do with her use of expletives.
However, a solution may be at hand. A new bill has been introduced in Congress that explicitly states eight words and phrases that may never be said on network television without incurring heavy fines. The adjective excuse would no longer be a legitimate defense, as the new law would cover “hyphenated compounds, verb, adjective, gerund, participle and infinitive forms.”
Curse words are not defined by part of speech or usage, it is the word itself that brings offense. Whether someone calls someone else a “f—,” “mother f—er,” or a “f—ing idiot,” this does not change the offensive nature of the word. Network television should be free from such tasteless s— (as should student newspapers).

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