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Supreme Court indecency ruling in FCC vs. Fox TV – does it really matter?

The Supreme Court case pits the FCC against nudity and profanity on broadcast TV. But the truth is, we’ve been looking at the bottom for so long, looking at a naked bottom won’t make a difference. Only one ruling matters, and that’s the ruling every parent makes at home.

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For example, whether or not the Supreme Court overturns the law, a child will still be able to flip to an episode of Criminal Minds, where a killer is talking in detail about how he dismembers his victims. As long as the psychopath doesn’t use the f-word or moon the camera, apparently whatever else he says is fine.

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And during the commercial break, the child can see an ad for a horrifically violent video game because the Supreme Court ruled last year that the government has no business safeguarding children from violent video games.

Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia made the point that unlike depictions of “sexual conduct,” there is no tradition in the United States of restricting children’s access to depictions of violence. He cited our tradition of “violent” fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood (See Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association).

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t be disappointed if the court rules in favor of the government. I’m ok with fining broadcasters for not bleeping out the f-word. I just wonder how it really makes a difference if we all know the word under the bleep. I have friends who use the replacement f-word, “Frickin’,” with the same intensity as they would use the real f-word.

If a word conveys the same meaning as another word that starts with the same letter and has the same number of syllables, is it really a different word?

The real decision – the only one that carries any weight – is the choice parents make about the amount and kind of TV their children watch. Parents have the right to ban TV shows from their house or ban TV altogether. Parents have the right and obligation to monitor what their children watch and to watch TV with them to provide context and discussion when difficult subjects come up.

No TV rating system, no government censor, and no Supreme Court ruling can alleviate parents of that responsibility.

Jim Sollisch is creative director at Marcus Thomas Advertising.


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