“If we can’t restrict the use of the words ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ during primetime, Hollywood will be able to say anything they want, whenever they want” — so says Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin (pictured left) in a heated statement released today after the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals completely and totally smacked down the FCC’s hyper-protective policy on four-letter words uttered on TV.
The decision in question stems from the FCC’s ruling that the use of “fuck” and “shit” by Cher and Nicole Richie, respectively, during Fox’s telecast of the Billboard Music Awards in 2002 and ’03 constituted an indecency violation. But it’s part and parcel of the FCC’s scarily-groundbreaking decision that the use of “fuck” in any context, in any circumstance during the 6 a.m.-10 p.m. time frame is an indecent, fine-able offense — unless of course it’s in a patriotic war movie a la “Saving Private Ryan,” in which case the commish will relent.
I’m wading through the 53-page decision right now, looking for the money quotes from the ruling applying appropriate scrutiny of what broadcasters have decried as the FCC’s nonsensical and arbitrary application of its indecency rules. Variety’s William Triplett does a fine job explaining the ins and outs of what it all means. I just had to poke some fun here at the line above from Martin’s reaction statement. What part of the First Amendment does the commish not get? Of course, the notion that “Hollywood” can now run amok with salty language is laughable. Television networks are private, for-profit businesses, equipped with standards and practices departments. “Hollywood” can only go as far as its advertisers and viewers will allow — that’s the wonderfully democratic part of the invisible hand that guides free-market capitalism, remember?
But Martin, who’s said to have aspirations to run for elected office, seems bent on framing the defeat he was just handed as a case of evil urban centers sending the children of heartland-America down the road to ruin with…dirty words on B-grade awards shows! In his statement Martin notes that he finds it “hard to believe that a New York court would tell American families that ‘shit’ and ‘fuck’ are find to say on broadcast television during the hours when children are most likely to be in the audience.”