The Gradual Erosion of TV Censorship

September 2nd, 2009 by Alec McNayr

The censorship of television has been around nearly as long as television itself, and has been controlled primarily by the Federal Communications Commission. Any content that is distributed over the public airwaves falls under FCC jurisdiction and is subject to the rules and regulations of that body. The subjective nature of decency is at the core of the long struggle between creative expression and censorship. Over time, strict standards regarding sex, profanity and violence have loosened, until the world we see and hear on broadcast television has begun to look and sound much more like the one in which we live. The joke is, of course, that we were exposed to immeasurably more indecencies by way of our grandmother's soap operas than in Janet Jackson's two-second wardrobe malfunction. 

Sometimes a thing falls apart in a single jolt, but more often, the slow steady progression of an opposing force will ultimately do more damage. While shows like South Park and Family Guy currently and flagrantly push against the boundaries of censorship, they are hardly the first to do so. The Smothers Brothers, All In The Family, Maude and even Elvis Presley's hips got in on the action long before Family Guy skewered "the freakin' FCC" with their bawdy musical number or South Park let loose their excessive expletives (162 to be exact) in “It Hits The Fan."


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