It’s not often I find myself rooting for the Murdoch empire, but when it comes to Fox TV’s challenge to the US Federal Communications Commission policy on swearing, I’m in the same corner as nasty old Rupe.
Essentially, in the wake of St Bono offering up a wee swearie at the Golden Globes in 2003, the FCC elected to operate a zero tolerance policy against bad language on network TV. This extends even to so-called “fleeting expletives”, usually unplanned, unscripted moments on live TV when an inadvertent flip or blimey slips out, the verbal equivalent of Janet Jackson’s nipple. And now the Supreme Court has voted 5-4 to uphold the Commission’s judgement.
The most vociferous of the anti-rudeness judges is the charming Antonin Scalia, who suggests that references to “sexual or excretory activities” trump any footling need to uphold the First Amendment. Now, I’ve never quite understood what’s wrong with sexual or excretory activities. I’m not sure where Justice Scalia thinks his nine children came from: maybe the stork brought them; maybe the same stork then removed all his bodily wastes when he wasn’t looking. But personally, given the choice between Scalia’s bumptious primness, and a clapped-out rock star saying “fuck”, I know which one I find obscene. The only good thing about the man is his passing resemblance to the Angelo Muscat (the butler in The Prisoner).
And without resorting to sneering generalisations, I think it’s useful to point out that on British television, this is a joke; in the States, this is reality.