Thursday, October 8, 2009

Radio & TV: WTF?

F-bombs, wardrobe malfunctions, nipple slips. BFD.

Communications lawyers have made millions from it.

It’s allowed a whole lot of bureaucrats at the FCC with too much time on their hands and who knows what on their minds to pretend to look busy.

But can anyone answer the question – What is the FCC supposed to be protecting us from? Words? Nipples?

On February 1, 2010 we will be celebrating the sixth anniversary – yes, you read that right – of the Super Bowl XXXVIII Janet Jackson nipple-slip wardrobe malfunction.

Sports Videos, News, Blogs

I’ll bet the broadcast barristers will still be racking up billable hours from it on that date and beyond.

On any given Sunday you’ll see more breasts flashed at a NFL game than all 44 Super Bowl broadcasts combined. And that’s still only half as many as you’ll see at a KISS concert or a foam party.

You’ll hear at least a dozen f-bombs drop at any NFL, MLB, NBA, or NHL game. If you’d prefer to limit your load to, let’s say, a half-dozen, try sitting in the bleachers at a Little League or kid’s soccer game.

That’s life. That’s how all the people swear.

The latest media-generated F-bomb of note occurred a couple of weeks back on a Saturday Night Live skit, “Biker Chit Chat.” The script had SNL newcomer Jenny Slate using the word “frickin,” – a good dozen times before her brain short-circuited causing her to accidentally blurt out the f-bomb instead.

“You frickin; just threw an ashtray of butts at my head. You know what, you stood up for yourself and I fuckin’ love you for that,” she said.

Just a few days before the SNL gaffe, WNYW-FOX 5/New York news anchor Ernie Anastos, did his own pardon-my-Greek gaffe.

It started with some innocent, playful banter with meteorologist Nick Gregory.

Anastos: “It takes a tough man to make a tender forecast, Nick."

Gregory, looking confused, replies: “I guess that's me."

Anastos: “Keep fucking that chicken.”

It’s the second most overused current catch phrase (the first being “inside baseball”). Loosely translated it means, “keep up the good work.”

The video is here. The best part isn’t Anastos’ use of the word. It’s the facial expression on co-anchor Dari Alexander.

Pardon my s-bomb but shit happens.

We’re nearly a decade into the 21st century. Don’t you think it’s time to legalize nipples and decriminalize f-bombs? WTF!

In 1950’s TV sitcoms married couples slept in separate beds.

In early 1962, after taking a continual beating from NBC ratings leader Bonanza, the ABC-TV series, Bus Stop, toughened up its dialog, taking liberal libertirs with the words “hell” and “damn.” It marked the first time on TV that someone other than a priest or evangelist used those words. An intolerant FCC ordered ABC to cut the cursing and the show was cancelled.

In April 1963, the Kingsmen, released “Louie Louie,” a poorly recorded cover of a Jamaican folk song. Within weeks, rumors that the unintelligible lyrics were sexually explicit – including liberal use of the f-word - spread across the U.S. and the FBI also embarked on a futile 31-month investigation into the alleged lascivious lyrics.

In September, 1964 when ABC-TV premiered the then-controversial Peyton Place series, based on Grace Metalious’ scandalous 1956 novel. Though the TV show could’ve been subtitled Who’s Pregnant and Who’s to Blame, the network censored the word “pregnant” for the first few episodes.

By the late sixties, previously profane on-the-radio words like “bitch” and “ass” were desensitized and worked into the mainstream lexis.

Even the f-bomb managed to escape non-trained ears on album rock radio in 1978 with the Who’s “Who Are You.” In 1991, Van Halen released their For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge titled album. Some historians claim the f-word is actually an acronym for those words.

Last year, Tori Amos had a Triple A radio format hit with “Big Wheel,” where two minutes and twenty seconds into the song she described herself as a MILF – repeatedly.

The first time I recall hearing the f-bomb in a song was in 1965 on the Fugs’ “Supergirl” from their first album, The Village Fugs.

My parents rarely cursed. I never heard my mother swear and my father’s were limited to the garden variety of “Lord’s name in vain” words. Knowing the neighborhood and the words I was bound to hear, I was taught at a young age that swearing exposed a limited vocabulary.

The first time I heard the f- word was in the first grade from Frannie Hart. His father was a hard-drinking longshoreman, who could easily drop three f-bombs per sentence.

Fast forward to today. It’s a profane insane world. Tweens and teens regularly text the f-word through Internet-driven acronyms.

The CW network, an equal partnership between CBS and Warner Bros., marketed last season’s Gossip Girl with the acronym OMFG, which is OMG with the f-bomb included. Rick Haskin, the chief marketing officer at the CW, told Advertising Age that he used the F-word reference because its tween-to early 20’s viewers used the same phrase in their own personal conversations.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney dropped an f-bomb on Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on the Senate floor when he asked him to perform an anatomical sexual impossibility.

Not long after that confrontation, Cheney, while being interviewed live on CNN and MSNBC, was asked to do the same from an off-camera protester. The reporter, realizing the request was audible, asked Cheney, “Are you getting a lot of that, Mr. Cheney?”

Most linguists believe its origin is from the Middle English word fucken, which means to strike, move quickly or penetrate. The origin of that word comes from the German word, ficken, which has the same definition.

In 2005, director Steve Anderson released his documentary, Fuck, which examined the history and impact of the word.

Fuck, as a word, is infused in every aspect of our culture. It’s a noun, verb, adverb, adjective, pronoun, and interjection. IMFAO, it’s time we desensitize, decriminalize, and once and for all disarm the f-bomb. If radio and TV can get away with freakin’ and frickin’, what’s fuckin’ going to do? Communize us? Enslave us?

Like I said. BFD.


Anonymous said...

No fuckin' kidding. You are so fucking right. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

On one level I agree with this analysis--as George Carlin pointed out so well in his famous "7 Dirty Words" routine(s), it isn't the words themselves, but the meaning of intent behind the words that count. Just saying the words, while shocking, will not cause a riot or immediate cultural meltdown.

On the other hand, I completely understand how we would want to keep a certain minimum level of discourse (sans a great deal of obscenity) on certain easy access channels (radio, OTA telivision, basic cable). There are great many persons in this country (I think the majority) who would not want to be exposed randomly or consistantly to vulgarity or obscenity. Not everything has to be Disney channel, but keeping vulgarity out of formal discourse has been a long held cultural norm. Broadcasting is still a formal discourse (not a personal one-to-one discourse).

I think the bigger point here is the FCC completely focusing on the wrong things because Rev. Donald Wildmon and his merry band of letter-writing "Children Of The Corn" followers put a spotlight on the Janet/Justin situation (and others). The FCC, because of this stupid incident and the clamor by the Wildmon group, raised fines from a reasonable but serious amount ($30,000) to a ridiculous amount for all broadcasters ($300,000). Now, to avoid that fine, people lose jobs & careers because the company does not want to face this liability.

You cannot tell me that the intentional exposure of Janet Jacksons breast ("wardrobe malfunction" my ass) is the same as an angry DJ leaving the mic open accidentally during a commercial break and calling his partner a motherfucker for blowing a bit. If it's unintentional, it should be dealt with locally and leave the FCC out of it.

As far as offending listeners, the times I (as PD) have had to clean up a "bad word" mess with listeners have been SO MUCH EASIER than dealing with listeners who were offended by a morning show bit that had not one word of "obscenity" in it.

It is never just about the "words".

Anonymous said...


You post isn't fair - you deleted my f' bomb comment a few weeks back - LOL!

Anonymous said...

It's a powerful word only because of the stupid stigma attached to it. It no longer means just sexual intercourse. If anything, it means it a whole lot less. The same with breasts. You do see more breasts in public. What was the big deal? This is 2009. It's a different world. People should be worried about more important things. The FCC is a poor excuse for a regulatory group. Look at deregulation. They can't keep up with it.

Anonymous said...

So much time has been wasted on this word at the risk of far more important issues facing broadcasters. The public is already desensitized to the f-word. Open any best-selling book, go to any box office hit movie - the word is commonplace. I would rather have that word in general use than the real problem - the obscene lyrics that even mention body parts and what to do with them on most contemporary hit radio today. Those lyrics are often demeaning to women. Why isn't the FCC concentrating there? F the F-word. It's legal.

Anonymous said...

Fuck, John - It must have been a slow fucking news day!!!

Anonymous said...

Show us your TITS!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for including those videos. I missed that SNL and only heard about the "chicken" incident on the NY station. Thank you too for turning me on to that Tori Amos song too. I had never heard it before. The radio around here has not played her since "Cornflake Girl" and I lost track of her career. Good to hear her. Funny bit about being a MILF. Shouldn't that be MULF?
You made some good points.

Anonymous said...

Your parents gave you good advice. If more addressed that we wouldn't have a nation full of f bomb users.

I am not offended by the word. It is powerful, direct and can even be used as fun. It should not be considered a swear in the 21st century, I agree.

Victoria Secret spots do more for breasts than nudity.

Anonymous said...

good one john. lmfao. the "fuck" movie was hillarious by the way. that one should be seen by everyone. i agree that the word needs to be desensitized. its ridiculous to waste time & money over a single word.

walk through a college neighborhood & you will see more than enough deliberate wardrobe malfunctions. let kids be kids. its the adults im worried about. when i see 50 yr old cougars trying to look 20. now that is obscene. said...

When we were young, "suck" was another good swear. If you told someone that they sucked you could expect a fist fight out of it. Now every sitcom at 7:00 pm has some little kid telling his big brother, "You suck!"

Anonymous said...

In Canada, for many years, after 9PM has been safe harbor for "adult" language. There are disclaimers every break for programs that have adult language, so viewers are aware.
OTA and non-premium cable allow the f-bomb and the other seven deadly words without emphasis or exaggeration. In fact, I watched a video of Carlin's entire seven dirty words performance uncensored on Canada's version of the comedy channel a few months ago. Won't see that on the US Comedy Channel or hear it on a US radio station. Ridiculous!
AMC censors the language in the movies it shows. Not the violence, but the words. TCM is starting to show more current films, street words intact, after 9PM. I wonder how long that will be allowed.

Anonymous said...

Words do not hurt people. The improper use of them does. As you say the f-word is multipurpose these days. A day does not go by that I don't hear it and I work in a well known law firm. It is not just a blue collar word.

Nudity is the same way. There should be no problem with it. When nudity is readily available people will prefer looking at clothed people. There is something far more appealling about wearing nice clothes than nudity.

Anonymous said...

Parents should be far more concerned with sex-ting & kids shooting each other naked w/cell phones & putting them on line than a word or an occasional breast on TV. Kids are making their own porn videos and doing things that even shock me as a sixties-seventies baby boomer. I spoke to my kids up front. I know they will sneak a few things. We all did. But parenting is for parents not the FCC and not the government. Desensitizing words and nudity are not threats to our society. Lack of parenting and supervision is.

Anonymous said...

I agree on desensitizing words. Look at the N-word. When it was confronted, it became politically incorrect to use. It went beyond racism. The same is true with the f-word. It is already in most literature, movies, and cable TV shows.

The Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" is such a non issue. Why is the FCC keeping this alive? I thought it was settled once and for all?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps people need to get over the use of the F-word, but radio isn't the place to start. Radio is a place where community standards should be maintained, and the majority of the community does not want to hear the F-word. And even if that's not true any longer, as a practical matter this tendency of radio to head to the toilet makes it very difficult for sales folks to do their jobs.

When Howard Stern moved into the Boston market (I know, I'm showing my age), the impact was felt by everyone in the business. Every sales rep I knew at the time started hearing pushback from clients about whether radio was a good place for their brand any more because Howard was raunchy and many others began to mimic him. We had the same problem when one of our local hosts did his annual week-long sex survey. And I don't think people's attitudes have changed that much.

I know the urge is to be edgy, but quality radio doesn't rely on offending people.

Anonymous said...

Legalize it don't categorize it.

The FCC should be more concerned about the hate spread by Glenn Beck and others.

Anonymous said...

To Irish Hermit - You are right. Suck meant oral sex. How times have changed. Suck picked up multiple meanings and went legal. Why can't fuck do the same.

Anonymous said...

I think nearly every air personality at one time or another came close to or accidentally said the f-word on the air not realizing the mic was on.

Then there is the potty mouth Casey Casem outtake aircheck. He was among the worst of them.

It's just a word.

Anonymous said...

You cannot stop kids from everything they want to say, do, watch & see. All we can do is hope we raised them w/some understanding of consequences from action. That still does not give the CW network's Rick Haskin the right to exploit the F-word in an acronym because kids are already using it. I agree with you that swears once desensitized take on different meaning and lose their ability to shock. The way the CW went about it was wrong. I bet Haskin has no kids of his own therefore it's okay. Once desensitized meaning that word can be heard on this network is fine. Until then, don't play with our kids's heads.

Anonymous said...

Whatever way you say it, how ever you mean it, the word is never going to go away and it will keep sprouting new definitions as time goes on. To me the word is first and foremost a spoken explanation point. I have heard the fword on TV & radio numerous times and almost always by accident. It didn't transform me into something I was not. I got a big chuckle out of it in fact partially because of the absurdity of it all. Anyone in this day and age offended by that word should have stayed in the twentieth century.

Anonymous said...

Great Tori AMos song. How come no radio station played that one???????

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 4:05 - Explanation point = fuck. That says it. You are absolutely right.

To Irish Hermit - I remember when "suck" as used in "you suck" was considered vulgar. Now that word is in every day use.

Eventually the f-word is enter the mainstream as well. It already has in Europe. No one makes a big deal of it there and their radio plays plenty of songs with the f-word. Lily Allen's "Fuck You" was a top ten hit in Germany and other parts of Europe and Macy Gray's "Sexual Revolution" featured a chorus of "I'm so fucking beautiful."

Only a matter of time. If the f-word is supposed to cause the fall of society why are most European countries in better shape than America? Huh?

Anonymous said...

I am a Christian and I am a liberal and I am still offended by the CW's OMFG. I don't appreciate the f-word next to God. The word does not offend me. I use it myself. I think that CW vp should have known better.

Anonymous said...

Leave things the way they are. We don't need any more dirty words entering mainstream language. I'm sorry. I do not agree with you on this one. I also believe stations that use profanity should be fined.

Anonymous said...

I'm probably the only person around that doesn't know what either MILF or BFF means. Any help?

Anonymous said...

BFF=Best Friend(s) Forever

MILF=Mom I'd Like [to]...well read the article and you'll know the last word.


Anonymous said...

Thanks! (My mom thanks you too but she doesn't have anything to worry about).

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