A ban on TV indecency is the latest rage -- but will it turn into censorship?


Frazier Moore, AP Television Writer, takes a look at the current anti-indecency crusade.

"There's a herd mentality when the issue of indecent programming comes up," says Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. "You can say, 'Well, the networks deserve it.' But underneath it all is the First Amendment, and there are very few champions in Congress to warn us about the dangerous consequences of encouraging censorship."


Whenever there is a "decency" outcry whether it be print (remember the outrage against all those trashy women novelists in the 19th century?), radio, TV or popular music, the culture almost always drifts the opposite direction of the protest. I was a teen-ager when they were hollering about Elvis on the Ed Sullivan show. Now it looks absolutely benign and sort of sweetly nostalgic with no grabbing for crabs. I can't think of any permanent damage to those of you who want to loosen things up for the good of all those who come after. Just wait--it will get worse--or better, depending on your viewpoint.

Viewers may not agree on what indecency is or how to fix it. But they want someone to answer for TV's sins.

The United States has already been down that path and the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled on it: you cannot ban indecency, you can only regulate it to the safe harbour (22:00 - 06:00). Furthermore, indecency does have a legal definition; roughly: talk about or depictions of excretory or sexual organs. By this definition, the only things that can legally be relegated to the safe harbour, are full frontal nudity for males at all times, and for females if the mons venus is shaved and/or the labia are exposed. Breasts are not sex organs -- or they are the same way skin is, depending on your point of view. Full dorsal nudity is acceptable as long as the buttocks are not spread to expose the anus or the labia.

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