During the on-field celebration immediately following the end of the Super Bowl, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco shouted out an expletive that is a form of one of the entries on the George Carlin seven heavy words list. Some among us are outraged.
Speaking to a teammate, Flacco said the victory was “f-ing awesome.”
Tim Winters of PTC issued the standard condemnation of the airing: “No one should be surprised that a jubilant quarterback might use profane language while celebrating a career-defining win, but that is precisely the reason why CBS should have taken precautions. Joe Flacco’s use of the F-word, while understandable, does not absolve CBS of its legal obligation to prevent profane language from being broadcast — especially during something as uniquely pervasive as the Super Bowl.”
RBR-TVBR observation: This is a classic example of a fleeting expletive. The FCC over-reaction to the Janet Jackson incident, in which it changed the rules without its usual process of due consideration and public comment – preferring instead an edict from then-Chairman Michael Powell – is precisely what got it in hot water with the Supreme Court and put the entire indecency enforcement regimen at risk.
The Court did affirm that the FCC is authorized to guard against indecent content over the airwaves, but it has been instructed to clear that air as to what is and is not a punishable offense – an extremely difficult task in the gray areas that accompany any attempt to regulate speech.
The bottom line is that Joe Flacco did not plan to say anything untoward over the air. And CBS was not going about searching for an f-bomb to spice up the content and improve its ratings.
It was an accident. It lasted for an entire nanosecond. It was a fleeting expletive pure and simple and not subject to any concrete FCC action until the wardrobe malfunction flip-out.
And we cannot overemphasize this next point: Nobody was harmed. We are perfectly aware that a three year old child may have heard Flacco – and we contend that the child is perfectly safe and the child’s future has not been undone by exposure to this unfortunate incident.
In these trouble economic times, we see no justification for the expenditure of millions upon millions of dollars to guard against essentially harmless little slipups like the Flacco f-bomb, just so the delicate sensibilities of PTC and others will be protected all 86,400 seconds of each and every day from something that happens maybe five or six times a year.