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Idol Chatter

Those of us who watch public television are fully aware of what a refreshing alternative it is to the mindless programming on most networks. Unfortunately, the federal government is making it harder for public broadcasting to continue doing its job. Most recently, PBS has expressed concern that it could face fines if it does not tone down/bleep/pixilate what the FCC considers inappropriate language, especially in an upcoming Ken Burns documentary about World War II. The fear of having to fork over to the FCC thousands of dollars that would otherwise be put toward worthwhile causes is forcing PBS and producers to self-edit, an act that will eventually compromise the quality of public television programming.

With all due respect to my fellow Idol Chatterer, Doug, this argument isn’t as simple as “PBS wants to cuss.” Those advocating the implementation of fines do not understand what the airing of these shows means for public education and awareness. Where else on television–where else anywhere–can you find an in-depth look at young men growing up in an impoverished Eastern Kentucky town; a non-biased examination of the AIDS pandemic; and a brutally honest portrayal of America-wide methamphetamine abuse?

These are serious topics, developed into shows for intelligent and inquisitive adults. Viewers are forewarned if a program contains mature content, and parents need to act accordingly if they do not want their children to watch. In fact, children should not be exposed to these programs at all. PBS stations carry daytime and evening programming. Children’s programming is aired during morning hours, while adult programming–news shows, documentaries, interviews–are aired at night.

We all have a right to choose what we listen to, read, and watch. The important aspect to focus on is that a choice clearly exists. The FCC is trying to take away that choice by forcing producers to create and viewers to watch watered-down versions of otherwise truthful and blunt portrayals.

PBS has always been a reliable source for airing the true essence of reality programming. In reality, people curse. And not because it seems like a cool thing to do or because they saw someone else do it. They curse because they have been in jail for years and are growing desperate. Or because they were caught in a cross-fire during battle and it was the first word to pop out of their mouths.

These are realities, and if PBS is being scared into not portraying these as they always have, then the FCC is doing a disservice to us all. If viewer dedication and respect could keep public television afloat, PBS would be around forever. Unfortunately the FCC, in a somewhat cowardly move, is punishing PBS by taking away what it needs most to survive. To me, this, not cursing, is something we should find offensive and vulgar.

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