Meanwhile, the decency watchdogs are helping to pump up the volume in this area. Parents Television Council's Tim Winter condemned the vote turning down Sam Brownback's amendments on fleeting expletives and violence, though it appears at the time he was unaware that the Senate Commerce Committee was preparing to take up the topic in short order.
On another front, according to a Harris Interactive poll commissioned by decency watchdog Morality in Media, a plurality of Americans think the FCC should be allowed to punish a major broadcast network for airing a single expletive, if you add those who somewhat agree to the 31% who strongly agree. Just over 1,000 adults aged 18 or older were asked the extent of agreement or disagreement with the statement, "The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, should have authority to fine any of the major broadcast TV networks, such as NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX, for airing a single expletive or 'four letter word.'"
31% strongly agreed, 21% somewhat agreed, for 52% on the agreeable side. 23% strongly disagreed and 19% somewhat disagreed, for 42%. 5% didn't know or were on the fence. MIM's Robert Peters said, "The truth also is that the First Amendment was never intended to endow the media with a right to curse whenever, wherever and however it wants, and as much as it wants."
SmartMedia observation: Peters, in discussing the recent fleeting expletive court decision, said "Furthermore, the two judges seemed to think the FCC no longer has authority to fine a broadcaster, even if the broadcaster airs curse words continuously." To that we say, Huh? We don't recall any challenge of the FCC's right, or absolving it of its duty, to fine broadcasters for continuous cursing. And when is the last time anybody aired something like that anyway, besides "Saving Private Ryan?" We further find this to be a junk poll question, since it asks people for an opinion that is a matter of constitutional law and its juncture with FCC regulation, not exactly a breakfast table topic for most folks. We suggest a follow-up poll that asks how much agreement there is with this statement: "The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, should have authority to fine you up to 325K for accidentally uttering a single expletive or 'four letter word' near a live broadcast mic." Think 52% will agree with that one?