The Dora the Explorer Demographic

January 13, 2009
By Karl Held, Hartland, WI

"Sh*@ Doesn't Happen," written by Dahlia Lithwick, discusses the highlights of the FCC's
crusade to transform our favorite shows into Morse code. Lithwick gives some background material on
the case, which has been through the American Judicial system more than once, and how the FCC's
method of censorship is more pick and choose than anything else. But as stated they want to prevent
the day we see "Big Bird dropping the F-bomb on Sesame Street." There are multiple cases
brought up in this article including: Cohen v. California, FCC v. Fox Television, and FCC v.
Pacifica; the cases have dealt with anything from a jacket decorated with profanities to
Bono's acceptance speech for his 2003 Golden Globe. And when the FCC unexpectedly changed their
policy in 2004 giving themselves more power to censor our "fleeting expletives." Cases brought
up against the FCC have never become a First Amendment case, yet the decision would affect
writer's freedom of speech. When censoring becomes so heavy writers have trouble creating
scripts, fearing they might stray from the organization's moral pathway, the restraints must be
loosened. A perfect example is how George Carlin's "Filthy Words" portion of his radio
broadcast was heavily censored due to using "naughty words," and sexually explicit language. Justice Stephen Breyer asked, can
the words be used "with no reference whatsoever to sexual function" and still be explicit? The
FCC says yes. The FCC's lack of reason when it comes to picking which shows should and should not
be censored is apparent and has been further skewed since their policy change. For instance, a
profane broadcast of Saving Private Ryan didn't even receive a slap on the wrist, yet a show on
the history of jazz was practically beat over the head. In court Solicitor General Gregory Garre
brings up that 28 percent of the viewing audience offended by Nicole Richie's acceptance speech
were under the age of 18, and that is who they are trying to protect; Garre says that if a word,
especially the F-bomb, isn't used as a reference sexually it is offending due to the instilling in the mind of coarse images. The internet and cable are brought up as
mediums in which smut is able to be spread efficiently. The FCC claims that in order to restore
confidence in the ability to turn on your TV during dinner and not be "bombarded with Big Bird
dropping the F-Bomb" they must be able to strictly regulate networks. But what happens when
they've been given too much power? The censoring is already heavy and overly restrictive. There
are plenty of ways to prevent kids from seeing shows geared towards adults such as the ability to
lock channels. When does the FCC have enough power to cross the line and infringe on our freedom of
speech? The majority of people agree that censoring is necessary in circumstances such as acceptance
speeches where a vast age group is watching, but shows on channels written for an older audience
needn't be so heavily restricted. Since the last policy change in 2004 the FCC has not eased off
their mission for total control over material aired on radio and broadcast on television. If
there aren't limits set for them they might just achieve the power they're after. There
shouldn't be a need to censor shows for mature audiences; if parents don't want their kids
watching those shows then that is their responsibility. After all, we aren't all in the Dora the
Explorer Demographic.

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