The Supreme Court case pits the FCC against nudity and profanity
on broadcast TV. But the truth is, we've been looking at the bottom
for so long, looking at a naked bottom won't make a difference. Only
one ruling matters, and that's the ruling every parent makes at
Some time soon, the Supreme Court will hand down its decision in
a case that pits the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) against
Fox TV. Really, it's the FCC against the use of nudity and profanity
on broadcast television.
While the court deliberated, so did I. Originally, I was planning
to prepare this commentary as a reaction to the ruling right after
the momentous decision came out. But the more I deliberated, the
more I realized that this decision is about as momentous as whether
to have hot or cold cereal for breakfast. The court could use a coin
to decide this one, so little difference will it make.
Only one ruling matters in this case, and that's the ruling every
parent makes at home.
First, some context. The Court ruled in 1978 that the FCC could
fine broadcasters for displays of nudity or profanity during prime
time. But fines were rarely doled out. Then in 2003, Bono said the
"f-word" on a live broadcast of the Golden Globes. The FCC started
cracking down, and a case was born. Fox and other broadcasters are
asking the court to overturn the 1978 ruling, arguing that in an era
of freer regulation on cable, the law is outdated.
So what's really at stake? The government believes there has to
be a safe haven maintained so parents can put their kids in front of
the TV at certain hours, turn to a specific channel, and not worry.
Has anyone in the government watched TV lately?
You can keep banning nudity and the occasional swear word, but
that won't get rid of talk shows that discuss deviant sexual
behavior, entertainment shows that feature a parade of celebrity
misbehavior, newscasts highlighting the latest in local rapes and
murders, and a plethora of "Law and Order: SVU" re-runs, where
children are routinely kidnapped and abused.
Good thing the government is protecting your child from a glimpse
of a nude behind.
During oral arguments, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. said
that if the court were to overrule its 33-year-old decision, "the
risk of a race to the bottom is real." I'd say that race is over.
We've been looking at the bottom for so long, looking at a naked
bottom won't really make a difference. …