After CBS aired Baltimore Ravens MVP Joe Flacco delivering an f-bomb in the Super Bowl postgame on Sunday, a parents watchdog group is calling for FCC sanctions on the latest instance of a “fleeting expletive.”
Flacco said, “This is fucking awesome!” to a teammate, and it was picked up by a network microphone.
Tim Winter, president of the watchdog org Parents Television Council, said, “Despite empty assurance after empty assurance from the broadcast networks that they would never air indecent material, especially during the Super Bowl, it has happened again.”
“No one should be surprised that a jubilant quarterback might use profane language while celebrating a career-defining win, but that is precisely the reason why CBS should have taken precautions. Joe Flacco’s use of the f-word, while understandable, does not absolve CBS of its legal obligation to prevent profane language from being broadcast – especially during something as uniquely pervasive as the Super Bowl. The instance was aired live across the country, and before the FCC’s designated ‘Safe Harbor’ time everywhere but along the East Coast.”
If this latest instance of profanity slipping into primetime has a familiar ring, that’s because it is an issue that has entangled the broadcast networks and government regulators for years. A Supreme Court decision last year, over Cher and Nicole Richie’s utterances of “fleeting expletives” during awards broadcasts, struck down the FCC’s attempts to crackdown on those instances, but it didn’t completely close the door on the agency from policing unexpected four-letter words in the future.
The PTC also complained after CBS showed a split second glimpse of Janet Jackson’s bare breast during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, an incident that the singer infamously attributed to a “wardrobe malfunction.” CBS challenged some $550,000 in fines, but they were thrown out by an appellate court. Although the Supreme Court declined to take that case, Chief Justice John Roberts warned that it was a matter of procedure. “It is now clear that the brevity of an indecent broadcast — be it word or image — cannot immunize it from FCC censure,” he wrote in June.
Winter, in his statement, said, “Now nine years after the infamous Janet Jackson incident, the broadcast networks continue to have ‘malfunctions’ during the most-watched television event of the year, and enough is enough. After more than four years of inaction on broadcast decency enforcement, the FCC must step up to its legal obligation to enforce the law, or families will continue to be blindsided.”
Whether the FCC will take action is the bigger question, as the agency has an estimated 1.5 million complaints pending. Unlike his predecessor, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has shown less willingness to put indecency on the airwaves as a priority on his agenda, even though he has defended the FCC policies of the past.