.. oups who do not share its mores to conform to it’s way of thinking, acting, and speaking.”(Gunther, 1991) Therefore, the Supreme Court looked upon Carlin’s monologue as indecent but not obscene. The FCC was given the power to regulate the airwaves and prohibit broadcasters from promoting “indecent” material over the radio. After the Pacifica case the FCC has also extended the ban of indecent as well as obscene materials to 24 hours per day. Because of the 24 hour ban the previous “law of nuisance” allowing for indecent material to be “channeled” at certain times of the day was abolished. To promote strong regulation against indecent material the FCC has the authority to issue fines on broadcasters, whether it be fines in the terms of money or suspension of air time.
The FCC, or the government, was given the ultimate power. The power to regulate what we hear. Recently the FCC’s authority to regulate broadcasts had been challenged once again. Howard Stern, self proclaimed “king of all media” and morning show “loudmouth” has given the FCC plenty of headaches. In 1987, the FCC introduced a new regulation to broadcasters. The regulation stated that “broadcasters could not say anything patently indecent or offensive to your community.”(Stern, 1994) Before this broadcasters only had to worry about the “seven dirty words”.
This new rule seemed to lack a specific meaning. The broadcasting of indecent material was clearly stated and understood since the Pacifica case. To say broadcasters could not say anything “offensive to your community” just reinforced the idea that the government want’s to conform people to their way of thinking, acting and speaking. As most of us are aware, many communities are dissimilar and comprised of many people who might have different outlooks on what indecent material would consist of. This new regulation sparked much protest against Howard Stern from many communities and individuals because the FCC essentially made the “citizen” the watchdog.
If one person in a community heard Howard Stern, or any broadcaster, say something that was offensive to them and reported it to the FCC, the FCC was required to take action and administer penalties. With this new regulation many watchdog groups and campaigns formed with the soul purpose to “remove the obscene and indecent Howard Stern from the airwaves.”(Stern, 1995) One with great influence in particular was the “Morality in America Campaign” headed by a minister from Mississippi named Donald E. Wildmon. Mr. Wildmon, famous for these types of protests, orchestrated a heavily promoted national letter writing campaign to the FCC by sending out flyers to communities across the nation.
Because of this action the chairman of the FCC, Alfred Sikes, took a closer look at Howard Stern and decided that his show was indecent and issued the corporation that represents Stern, Infinity Broadcasting, a warning. This warning brought publicity to Infinity Broadcasting. Ratings soared and revenue was high. Stern became such a center of attention that Infinity decided to keep The Howard Stern Show running just as it was. Mr.
Wildmon’s organization still pr essed on for “morality in America” and caused Howard Stern and Infinity Broadcasting to receive more fines than anyone in the history of radio, 1.7 million dollars worth. After years of protest and behind the scenes disputes Infinity Broadcasting paid the 1.7 million dollars in fines to the FCC on September 3, 1995. The FCC’s authority was boldly challenged by Howard Stern and the fines sent a clear message to other broadcasters that the FCC would not tolerate indecent material over the airwaves. Even though Stern’s material was considered indecent by the FCC, they could not stop it. The FCC can only regulate it. Howard Stern’s message might be indecent ,however, it is still protected by the first amendment.
The outcome of the FCC v. Pacifica Foundation gave the FCC “the power to regulate radio broadcasts that are indecent but not obscene.”(Gunther, 1991) We could look at this power given to the FCC as an infringement of our first amendment rights. Should Americans let the government regulate what we here or say on our public airways? Or should we place “the responsibility and the right to weed worthless and offensive communications from the public airways in a public free to choose those communications worthy of its attention from a marketplace unsullied by the censor’s hand.”(Gunther, 1991) One could interpret this to mean the government might feel that we are not responsible enough to do this for ourselves. But I believe ,however, that if a certain amount of regulation is not applied things could very easily get out of control. If the “seven dirty words” were allowed to be said on the airwaves at any time of the day then others might find reason for openness in many other regulated activities such as pornography, or nudity and open language policies on television. A step in this direction for our society is the wrong step.
We have had these regulations in place for a number of years now and it would be devastating in this day and age to allow this type of openness, especially with the problems we are facing in our communities with violence and children. However, I also think that the “seven dirty words” are just in fact what they are, words. “Carlin is not mouthing obscenities, he is merely using words to satirize as harmless and essentially silly our attitudes towards those words.”(Gunther, 1991) I do understand that words that are common in one setting might be offensive in another. Because I hear these words often I do not take offense to them. Although, if I had children I would not want them to hear these words over public airways or repeat them.
It is important though that the parents, not the government, have the right to raise their children. I believe that the government should have let the “law of nuisance” stand. Channeling this type of material in hours where children are not exposed would be the right decision. We have created an even stronger taboo concerning these words by letting them be regulated and now we are stuck with that. Freedom of speech is an important thing and even the slightest bit of regulation could have drastic results.
People wanting to see morality in America is fine, but what is this morality? Who set the standards for morality? Our morality has changed over the years and is still changing daily. I do not think these words have anything to do with morality. These are just words that were assigned to bad intentions and bad thoughts. Is it moral that we let our government decide what we hear or say. I believe that’s the greatest immoral act of all.
References Gunther, G. (1991). Constitutional Law. Twelfth Edition. New York: The Foundation Press, Inc. pp. 1154-1161.
Carlin, G. (1977). Class Clown. “Filthy Words” monologue. Atlantic Records, Inc.
Simones, A. (1995). Lecture on FCC v. Pacifica Foundation. October 27, 1995. Constitutional Law, Southwest Missouri State University.
Stern, H. (1994). Private Parts. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc. Stern, H. (1995). Miss America.
New York: Regan Books. Authors Note: This recieved an “A” for a media class. Please not there are some typo’s that were pointed out in this paper and have not been corrected. What? should I do everything for you. Enjoy, Good Luck, and Your Welcome.