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Press Release

November 06, 2008

PTC Affirms Support for Broadcast Decency Law

U.S. Supreme Court Will Decide Whether Broadcasters Can Legally Air Profanities Any Time of Day


LOS ANGELES (November 6, 2008) – The Parents Television Council™ restated its support for the broadcast decency law and the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) ability to fine broadcasters for violating the law by airing indecent content when children are in the viewing audience.  On Tuesday, November 4, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the profanity case (FCC v. Fox) concerning uses of the f-word and s-word on primetime broadcast television.


The broadcast decency law exists today only because there are broadcasters who have chosen to shock or offend an audience even during hours when children are most likely to be viewing or listening.  If those who are privileged to have a license to broadcast over the public airwaves acted more responsibly, and if those licensees gave greater consideration as to the time of day they air graphic material, this debate would not be taking place.  But unfortunately, it is taking place,” said PTC President Tim Winter.


We are pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court heard the profanity case, and we hope that the Court will rule that the decency law applies to instances of expletives that air over the publicly-owned airwaves when children are in the audience.  This simple time, place and manner limitation directly addresses the public interest requirement for all broadcast licensees.”


The television networks claim that they should have the right to air profanity during any time of day because otherwise, there is a “chilling” effect on their creativity.  Yet PTC research found that profanity during primetime broadcast television not only has doubled since 1998, but that harsher profanity has quickly risen in prominence and pervasiveness.  More than a quarter of the expletives a child will hear on TV today will be the exact words or some form of the “f-word”, “s-word,” or “b-word” that air unbleeped or partially-bleeped on broadcast television.


The broadcast medium remains uniquely pervasive, and if the networks think otherwise, then they should readily relinquish their broadcast licenses.  If broadcasters want to use the public airwaves – public property – to deliver their product to every home in the country for free, then they must abide by the indecency law as prescribed by Congress, affirmed by the Supreme Court and enforced by the FCC.  We must put the well-being of children first and allow certain hours of the broadcast day to be a safe haven for families,” Winter said.


In 1972, the late George Carlin infamously asserted in a comedy routine that there are “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television,” yet when subsequently broadcast over the radio, it led to the Supreme Court case (FCC v. Pacifica) that affirmed the authority of the FCC to enforce the broadcast decency law.  Today, six of those seven words have aired unedited on broadcast TV during primetime viewing hours.  The remaining word aired unedited during a network news program, NBC’s Today, in February 2008.


Winter added, “The simple solution here is that broadcasters could and should adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards indecency, just as they promised during a Congressional tribunal after the Janet Jackson incident.  Implementing a 10-second delay, especially during live broadcasts, would go a long way to curb indecent programming on television and would help to protect America’s children and families.”


To view the major findings of the PTC analysis of profanity on television, visit: http://www.parentstv.org/PTC/news/release/2008/1029.asp.


To speak with a representative from the Parents Television Council, please contact Kelly Oliver (ext. 140) or Megan Franko (ext. 148) at (703) 683-5004.

The Parents Television Council™ (www.parentstv.org®) is a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment. It was founded in 1995 to ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media. This national grassroots organization has more than 1.3 million members across the United States, and works with television producers, broadcasters, networks and sponsors in an effort to stem the flow of harmful and negative messages targeted to children. The PTC also works with elected and appointed government officials to enforce broadcast decency standards. Most importantly, the PTC produces critical research and publications documenting the dramatic increase in sex, violence and profanity in entertainment. This information is provided free of charge so parents can make informed viewing choices for their own families.




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