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At first, it sounded like an unfair bureaucratic issue. Paula Kerger, the new President and CEO of PBS, has been speaking publicly about her fear that PBS may face fines for violating the “fine print” of FCC laws in its upcoming presentation of Ken Burns’ World War II documentary. At first glance, it would seem unfair for the FCC to dictate how the story is told, let alone issue fines of over a half a million dollars per incident.

But it turns out that the issue is not about politics or historical bias: it’s about language. Basically, PBS wants to cuss. As Kerger said, “In order to tell some stories, we may need to use language that the FCC may not think is so appropriate.”

The issue is coming months after a PBS affiliate was fined $15,000 for using two common cusswords in its “The Blues” series. In June, President Bush signed off on the significant increase of the maximum fine.

I think it’s about time for more significant restriction of television cussing. One of the cusswords in “The Blues” was about the most gross and vile of all cusswords. The other is so common it is often shouted loudly at sports events. Parents are well-known for correcting their kids when they cuss–especially at young ages–but rarely consider how often their kids hear cussing in the neighborhood, at school, in music, in movies and on live television.

There once was a time when television–especially during prime viewing periods–was a safe respite from the neighborhood’s foul language for a young person to be entertained and (especially on PBS) even educated. They deserve it back. To think that history can’t be re-told without cussing is like saying Sex Ed. can’t be told without pornography.

And if adults require the R-rated language version, let them make the donation receive the unedited DVD in the mail!

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