Let's Talk About Sex, FCC

Sex is one of the most misunderstood subjects on television by the Federal Communications Commission. Like the French sculptor Rodin, the agency may not be looking at the whole bust.

The FCC fined CBS-owned stations $550,000 earlier this week for broadcasting Janet Jackson's right small breast (her words) during last February's Super Bowl. But in a study released yesterday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the group found 67 percent of American parents thought the incident was of "no consequence," according to the Washington Post.

Interestingly, the same study said 60 percent of parents were very concerned about the amount of sex their children are exposed to on TV and 53 percent were very concerned about the amount of violence their children are exposed to on TV.

The conclusion: Janet Jackson's breast is not in itself sex -- or violence, for that matter. But other programming might be.



In a recent episode for the new FX show "Rescue Me," firemen competed to find out who had the longest penis - complete with rulers and nudie magazines. This may have not been suitable for children.

Still, this wasn't sex. Nothing was shown, though lots of suggestive words were used. "Rescue Me" plays late at night - and, of course, the FCC has no supervision over cable networks. But in parents' minds they think it's still TV.

Women in bikinis by a pool during this season's debut of ABC "The Bachelor" might be sexy - but it wasn't sex. UPN's "America's Next Top Model" has plenty sexy women with sexy clothes - but no sex.

So if showing Janet Jackson's breast can fine stations $550,000 for the nanosecond it was on TV, what about these other TV scenes which last much longer? Maybe the determining factor should be arousal. No johnson; no fine. Tough to measure, but Nielsen should look into this.

The conclusion is that parents seem more concerned with other suggestive content in primetime shows than one fleeting breast of a pop singer. What parents are really saying is that the FCC should fine a whole bunch of networks and TV shows. Don't just pick on CBS.

With the $550,000 fine, the FCC should buy a commercial spot in the next Super Bowl game on Fox and tell viewers not to watch any sex-related shows. Parents would like that.

Actually at $550,000, the FCC can only afford one-fifth of a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl -- which, I'm told, is a traditional yearly family TV event. In a six-second commercial, it's just enough time to say: "Sex talk and violence on TV is bad for children. Now back to the bone-crushing linebackers and those hot cheerleaders."

Because when it comes to football, even without Janet Jackson, all viewers love their sex with their violence.

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