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An Analysis of Its History and Impact On The Community Essay

With the continuous rise of the different kinds of technology, information is far easier to spread than it was decades, or even mere years, ago. This rise has also been the source of the many “negative” effects society is facing at present. This includes how broadcasting has not only become a means for disseminating useful information, it has also been a means to promote—though not always intentionally—negative values to the members of the community, more particularly to the more influential ones being the children. Shows airing on broadcast television use the public airwaves.

Because broadcast channels are free, children of any age can access their programming. When they are home from school or their day’s activities, it is presumed that they are doing so. Children also nowadays rely greatly on technology in their everyday leisure’s and schoolwork. The Communications Act of 1934 sets the guidelines for the use of this public property. It says that “programming must be in the ‘public interest’, [that is] they serve a common publicly recognized good” (“Broadcast Indecency Campaign”, 2009).

However, more and more producers and scriptwriters are using unacceptable words and visual scenes in their programs. Although their intended audience may be adults, there can never

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be any guarantee that the shows are not watched by children. These unacceptable words and visuals are placed into the category of “indecent content”. Indecent programming means “references to sexual or excretory functions… [including] obscene programming that describes or shows sexual conduct in a vulgar and offensive way and has no literary, artistic, political, or scientific value” (“A closer look at broadcast indecency”, 2004).

This gave rise to the issue of broadcast indecency. The issue of broadcasting indecency has been not quite such a large issue earlier in the decade. Television networks still had the sense to regulate the languages and actions that were shown in their programs. However, certain events in 2003 and 2004 made the government more aware of the risks that broadcasting could bring to the public if not regulated properly, and made it more determined to stamp out the issue.

These events are of the Golden Globes in 2003, and the Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004. The Golden Globes is one of the most prestigious awards ceremonies in the world. Viewers of all ages tune in to watch their favorite celebrities in their elements. In January 19, 2003, however, in a live show broadcast all over the country, the performer Bono, in his acceptance speech, uttered the phrase, “This is really, really f**king brilliant”.

Parents were outraged and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which regulates the television networks and their programs and impose fines and penalties to the violators, received a great number of complaints. A year later, in February, the Super Bowl XXXVIII was aired on national television. During the half-time show, a number sponsored by the MTV network showed “performers singing and dancing provocatively, and ended with the exposure of the breast of one female performer” (Welborn & Cohen, 2004).

These issues began the government thinking that television networks were becoming more and more lax when it came regulating their shows and considering their audience. The issue of broadcast indecency became an important policy because television is a great means of influence. Children, especially, like to imitate what they see in adults, even more so those people from television that they idolize. They are very impressionable, and it has been proven in many studies how the media shapes a child’s way of thinking and his behavior.

Because of this, lawmakers are responding to a genuine concern, shared by many parents and adults, that television and radio broadcasts are becoming more offensive and that there are not enough strict policies regarding the issue. Since the incident in 2004, FCC has become stricter in imposing their fines to network offenders. They have worked hand-in-hand with the House of Representatives. The House Legislation, or H. R. 310, which was sponsored by Representative Fred Upton was made to raise the maximum fine for indecent broadcasts to as much as $500,000 per violation (as before it was only just $32,500).

It also was also to expand the FCC’s authority to “fine individuals responsible for on-air indecency, regardless of whether they hold licenses; allow the FCC to require broadcasters to air ‘educational’ and ‘informational’ programming (presumably approved by regulators) as a penalty for violations; and require the FCC to begin license revocation proceedings when a broadcaster has been fined three times or more” (Gattuso, 2005). This new policy against broadcast indecency gives both positive and negative implications.

A positive implication is the assurance on the parents’ parts that their children watch ‘safe’ shows every time they tune in to their television sets from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm. Parents and guardians can be rather sure that swear words and other sexual or violent content in the programs are monitored carefully, so they support this completely. The negative implications of this policy, on the other hand, is that several freedom and rights group claim that enforcing the law against broadcast indecency include violating the freedom of expression, going against the First Amendment rights.

Producers and scriptwriters have the same right as anyone to express themselves in whichever way they can, even if some people do not approve of this (Fyfe, 2008). Along with the television networks who claim that their programs and their contents are only for ‘entertainment value’, freedom and rights group oppose the policy. The policy against broadcast indecency has been rather effective since its finalization in 2006. Television networks have become more careful when it comes to their shows’ contents, as the penalties for the violation of the policy have become harsher.

There are still, however, some flaws. Firstly, the term “indecent” is used loosely. There are no exact boundaries when it comes to what words or visuals are indecent, and what are not. “Laws preventing certain speech are black type on white paper, but the context in which words appear are utterly gray” (Cox, 2004). Secondly, there are many different cultures and language that is vulgar to one culture may not be to another. Everyone has a duty to the community. Every person can be greatly influenced by another person or company or situation in any way.

Television is one of the most influential types of technology because almost every home and office/ structure has it. It also contains both the visual and audio elements which are easily absorbed by the human mind, especially of children who base their actions, attitudes and behaviors on someone or something else. Broadcast indecency has posed many problems, from the influence of the usage of crude words, to the sexual and violent actions and ways of thinking.

The Federal Communications Commission does its best to monitor everyday programs, but they rely mostly on the complaints and reactions of the viewers (Smith, n. d. ). The community, therefore, has much a responsibility as the FCC to guide the programs impressionable minds watch everyday. Television networks, on the other hand, need to control their own ideas and fit them into more suitable situations. Their freedom of expression does not have to be sacrificed. Swear words and sexual and violent scenes need not always be a part of adult programs to cater to more mature minds.

The only way the issue can be prevented is if all members of the community work together. The idea seems bleak for now, as most television networks keep standing their ground that what they do is part of their rights as broadcasters. There are ideas that “perhaps technologies will be built into digital video recorders that would allow a consumer to set up a screening system” (Cox, 2004), but for the time-being, it is not yet possible. Improvements can be done, though, with continued talks, amendments in the law, and clarifications on the boundaries, and rules and regulations.

Through these, the nature of broadcasting will be of use to everyone, instead of posing threats to the community, and no one need ever worry that broadcasting and its negative effects. References Broadcast indecency campaign. (2009). Retrieved May 1, 2009 from http://www. parentstv. org/PTC/fcc/main. asp. A closer look at broadcast indecency. (2004). Retrieved May 1, 2009 from http://www. firstamendmentcenter. org/analysis. aspx? id=12915. Welborn, A. A. & Cohen, H. (2004). Regulation of broadcast indecency: Background and legal analysis. Retrieved May 1, 2009 from http://www. fas. org/sgp/crs/RL32222.

pdf. Cox, B. (2004). The broadcast indecency playground. Retrieved May 1, 2009 from http://cei. org/gencon/019,03986. cfm. Gattuso, J. L. (2005). Broadcast Indecency: More regulation not the answer. Retrieved May 1, 2009 from http://www. heritage. org/Research/Regulation/wm666. cfm Smith, D. E. (n. d. ). Broadcast indecency: What you can do. Retrieved May 1, 2009 from http://www. illinoisfamily. org/BroadcastIndecency-Whatyoucando. pdf Fyfe, K. (2008). Oh, those naughty broadcasters. Retrieved May 1, 2009 from http://www. cultureandmediainstitute. org/articles/2008/20080326000119. aspx

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