Saturday, November 13, 2004

Saving Private Words

We all remember when Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson's breast during the Superbowl. Since then the FCC has cracked down on Howard Stern and increased fines. So is this a question about decency or saving five year-olds from hearing dirty words for the first time?

For Veteran's Day there was a national broadcast of Saving Private Ryan totally uncut. Many stations did not show the film for fear of fines by the FCC. Others did show it because they felt that the FCC would be criticized by even conservative groups for fining over a film celebrating Veterans day.

There is one problem. What does the FCC say to people like Howard Stern who they are fining millions of dollars when they decide to not fine a film with profanity for a special occasion? In my view, there is a major problem, and it's not with them showing Saving Private Ryan totally uncensored.

The problem is with the double standard. The FCC does not want to upset veteran groups, but if TV stations are allowed to show profanity without being fined, shouldn't Howard Stern have that same right? From the veterans' point of view, this is a broadcast that is not meant for little children. The film is rated R, and if any young children do see the broadcast, they are more likely to be affected by the violence than the language. Saving Private Ryan is a masterpiece that the Veterans deserve to get to see on TV on Veterans' Day.

At the same time, I think it would be fair to say that programs like Howard Stern are also for a target audience which is above eighteen years-old. Howard Stern is on the radio on weekdays only from 6 am to 11 am. The children who could get offended by his show are unable to listen due to the fact that they are in school early in the morning. If Howard Stern would be on the radio from 4-8 pm, then we can have a very valid argument that he can develop a large underage audience.

It is safe to say that if you are going to watch Saving Private Ryan, you should be prepared for realism in the display of violence and and the usage of language. If you are going to listen to Howard Stern, you should expect to hear jokes that are not suitable to say in the middle of a classroom. If you are the FCC, you need to either set a standard that allows both Saving Private Ryan and Howard Stern to have the ability to use language, or neither of them.

I hope that there is not a single fine for the broadcast of Saving Private Ryan. In addition, I believe that this broadcast will and should be followed by a fair examination of what will be acceptable for the future of public media. We want freedom of speech, protection of children, and a fair balance of what is acceptable in all situations.

I look forward to seeing how the broadcast of Saving Private Ryan will have an affect on the future of the FCC. That future cannot disregard the broadcast, but must use it to be fair to other groups. The FCC must choose a set of rules that will be consistant and detailed if they will place fines on radio and television in the future.

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