Enforcing TV pablum

When they weren’t protecting our shores from non-English speaking illegal aliens, our Senators were busy safeguarding our children from naughtiness on network TV. The Senate unanimously passed a bill to levy a fine of $325,000 for any infraction of broadcast indecency.

Janet Jackson’s microsecond-long “wardrobe malfunction” on broadcast TV and conservative media watchdog groups flooding the FCC with complaints about offensive programming prompted the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, which was passed Thursday.

The act, in part, increased the maximum penalty for infractions of broadcast “decency” ten-fold to make the fines mean something. Some Senators had been angling for a more punitive $500,000 cap, in fact.

The legislation, which still has to be reconciled with similar bills in the House, targets the broadcast networks, which have pushed the decency envelope to remain competitive with the cable networks.

Jackson’s momentary baring of one breast, which was supposedly accidental, during the 2004 Superbowl broadcast set off howls of protests from the bluenoses among us. One would have thought the sight of a bare breast was the worst thing since 9/11.

Meanwhile, conservative watchdog groups have virtually automated indecency complaints, requiring cooperative viewers (whether they have seen the offending program or not) only to click a few web links to ship official complaint forms to the FCC.

The CBS crime drama, Without a Trace,  was the victim of one such automated barrage after it showed a three-minute simulated teenage sex party, which was lit so poorly that only the most imaginative of minds could have believed anyone was having any sex at all.

The end result of such bluenosed watchdoggery and overzealous legislative intrusions will be broadcast programming that will be bland pablum. The networks will watch every single word, line, scene and episode for potentially financially ruinous “indecency.” TV will then, as one pundit remarked decades ago, finally become a  vast wasteland of mediocrity.

Details about all of this tomfoolery are here.

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