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Oh, Be Careful Little Eyes What You See: The Influx of Broadcast Indecency
Sarah Griffith
February 8, 2008
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“Oh, be careful little eyes what you see!  Oh, be careful little ears what you hear!”  Many of us learned that familiar song in our childhood, but the very essence of its meaning is ringing loud and clear today, as a wave of indecency floods into our homes over the airwaves.  Amidst the ongoing trial of the 2004 Super Bowl/Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction,” NYPD Blue’s brazen nude scene in a 2003 episode, and the recently dropped “F”-bomb on ABC’s Good Morning America, there seems to be no end to the media and entertainment arena’s inappropriate, ill-mannered and rather disgusting behavior.


This unhealthy trend of immoral and lurid “entertainment” is no doubt a reflection of the so-called “tolerance” that networks say “must” be applied when addressing issues related to the First Amendment.  But the question then becomes, “whose tolerance?”  Who decides the standards by which we protect our children and ourselves from indecent broadcasts over the public airwaves?  If we allow the networks to set the standards of public decency, isn’t that like allowing the criminal to decide what’s illegal?


In 2006, thanks to the hard work of activist members of Concerned Women for America (CWA) and other pro-family groups, Congress finally acted to authorize the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to use its power to impose meaningful, punitive fines against broadcasters.  That authority was crippled by CBS when it filed suit in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals after receiving a $550,000 fine for the infamous Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” during the 2004 Super Bowl.  The FCC’s lawsuit could end up weakening the ability to protect children from indecent programming even further.  It all rests on the whims of judges.


“The FCC should be undeterred in its mission to enforce decency standards,” says Shari Rendall, Concerned Women for America’s Director of Legislation and Public Policy.  “Congress needs to restore the FCC’s authority to protect American families held hostage to this onslaught of smut.  Indecent broadcasters should not be allowed to determine what programming is appropriate for children, particularly when their standards do not reflect the majority of American families,”


On January 25, 2008, the FCC fined 52 ABC affiliates $27,000 each, for airing a 2003 episode of NYPD Blue that featured a naked woman standing before a young boy.  While this will hopefully set a precedent, a lot still depends upon the ruling in the CBS Super Bowl case.  If the 3rd Circuit caves in to the demands of CBS, then sadly, we will likely see an even greater influx of the immoral and ugly behavior over the airwaves.  In order to protect our children and ourselves from the indecent and perverted images flashing across our TV screens, we must be willing to support the FCC in its regulation of broadcasting.

In response to broadcasters thumbing their noses at Congress, the FCC and the American public, Senator John Rockefeller (D-West Virginia), introduced S. 1780, the Protecting Children from Indecent Programming Act.  This bill provides the FCC with the tools needed to protect our children by allowing them to find that a single word or image in broadcast programming may be considered indecent. This would be a great victory in the promotion of clean and family friendly broadcasting and entertainment. 


Action: Please call Senators Harry Reid (D-Nevada) at (202) 224-3542 and Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) at (202) 224-2541 and urge them to bring S. 1780 to the floor for a vote.

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Concerned Women for America
Legislative Action Committee
1015 Fifteenth St. N.W., Suite 1100
Washington, D.C. 20005
Phone: (202) 488-7000
Fax: (202) 488-0806
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