February 26, 2004


Just a few weeks after promising to clean up its act during daytime hours because of Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl bra-ha-ha, MTV is baring all again.

Britney Spears’ graphic sex romp “Toxic” is back in heavy rotation around the clock.

I think that Jeff Jarvis rules. He’s a smart, thoughtful guy, who knows a lot about the media world, and his heart is always in the right place. But I think that he’s over the top with this post, which I linked below, claiming that the Bush Administration (note that FCC Chairman Michael Powell was originally appointed to the FCC by Bill Clinton) is tightening the screws of censorship until the media scream. (I saw Friends and Will and Grace tonight — the latter featuring lots of jokes about washing down pills with booze and then vomiting. It’s not Little House.)

If I had my druthers, I’d let the marketplace handle all of this stuff and put the FCC out of the regulatory business except for technical issues — and maybe not even that. But that’s not going to happen; given that some degree of regulation is politically certain, it doesn’t seem to me that we’ve got all that much of it, really, or that we’re in any danger of returning to the 1950s. And even if the FCC didn’t regulate, companies would still punish people working for them who got out of line and created a flap, as they notoriously do in the newspaper business where the FCC has no jurisdiction. And as long as there are any content standards at all — whether imposed by regulation, by “jawboning,” or by the marketplace — people will push them until they push back. That’s what Howard Stern does. Now there’s pushback. If things go according to pattern, the main consequence will be a boost in his ratings. So it’s hard for me to see what all the excitement is about.

That’s my take. For a somewhat contrary view, read this post by Eric Scheie.

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