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America’s “swear ban” is scrapped. What a ******* shame!

Guy Adams

janet jackson nipple super bowl 300x234 Americas swear ban is scrapped. What a ******* shame!

There is sadness for people who, like me, have in recent years enjoyed the occasional spectacle of America getting its collective knickers in a twist over, say, Bono saying a vaguely rude word at an awards ceremony, or Janet Jackson displaying half a bejewelled nipple (left) for a fraction of a second on live TV .

A US appeals court ruled this week that the government’s “zero-tolerance” policy regarding indecency on the public airwaves – which was ratcheted-up to the point of Victorian absurdity during the Bush era – violates the right of TV networks, and the people who appear on them, to free speech.

The decision is being pegged as a huge victory for broadcasting firms, who in recent years have faced hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines every time they offend those of a Mary Whitehouse persuasion. Now they’ve no need to fear the accidental utterance of an F-word, or even C-word on one of their programmes.

It’s also good news for viewers who might want to watch, say, the acclaimed CBS documentary 9/11 (in which firefighters faced with the deadliest terrorist attack in modern history were understandably potty-mouthed) or the PBS mini-series The Blues, both of which were censored under the previous rules. Gordon Ramsay, whose TV career on these shores is already going great guns, may also be able to explore his Glasweigan roots to their fullest extent.

All the usual prudes will of course complain that this court ruling represents the end of civilisation as we know it. Someone from the “parents television council” said today that it’s a “slap in the face” to upstanding Americans and will see children subjected to the “unbridled use of the F-word.”

But I’ve a more parochial concern. In recent years, the use of the “bleep” in place of rude-words (and the comic trend for pixellating the v-sign and other allegedly-offensive hand gestures) has become central to the best of this nation’s comedy. It’s almost impossible, for example, to think of an episode of South Park, perhaps the finest satire on air these days, that doesn’t make several dozen judicious uses of “bleeps.” The Office often makes hilariously-judicious use of pixellation when the script demands nudity.

In both shows, and in many others, the process of censorship can actually make an obscenity funny. Sometimes, uniquely funny. So I hope that people who run America’s airwaves will in future bear in mind that – when you swear – less is often more.

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  • Joseph Kelsall

    I always found it incongruous that breasts were not allowed on TV but hard porn could be viewed in shop windows around Times Square NY. And, in the Deep South, Elmer Gantry is alive and kicking ( and in many cases fornicating)

  • JohnTheBean

    Let’s be honest, only the puritanically-minded get much offended these days with regard to the f-word and the c-word. Now the n-word, there’s a different story – we all know that only some people are allowed to use that!

  • maias

    I remember in the 60s when the BBC would ban records for being suggestive – until the radio comedy show “I’m sorrry, I’ll read that again” (or was it “Round the Horn”) came up with the latest list of records banned by the Beeb..
    Raindrops keep falling on my Beeeeep!
    I wanna hold your Beeep! etc.
    After that Aunty gave up.

  • http://twitter.com/CulturalSnow Tim Footman

    In Thailand, they luuurrve their pixel machines; the latest wheeze is to fuzz out all representations of alcohol and tobacco. They also have a problem with depictions of blood, although the violence that causes it is OK. In the Tim Burton Sweeney Todd, the claret spilled when the demon barber dispatched his victims was blurred to oblivion; but when Helena B-C was chucked into the furnace, that was kept intact.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Vladimir-Todorov/100000557748027 Vladimir Todorov

    Yeah, gangster rappers and P. Diddy.

  • VivaLaRevolution

    “Janet Jackson displaying half a bejewelled nipple (left) for a fraction of a second on live TV”

    From her point of view it was a Right nipple on her right Breast on her right hand side.

    It is only our left looking at the picture. But definately her right. look at it more and you will see.

  • VivaLaRevolution

    Ever seen Italy housewife daytime TV.

  • maias

    Ha Ha ha! “Janet Jackson displaying half a bejewelled nipple (left) for a fraction of a second on live TV”. I think it refers to the picture of Janet Jackson’s right nipple which is to the left of the text.

  • whitmanamerican

    Seems worth noting that the ban was breached on numerous occasions on prime time tv. I’m not sure how that could be, but there’s no doubt about it. Maybe the guardians of public morality don’t stay up late enough to police effectively.

  • whitmanamerican

    Seems worth noting that the ban was breached on numerous occasions on prime time tv. I'm not sure how that could be, but there's no doubt about it. Maybe the guardians of public morality don't stay up late enough to police effectively.


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