kottke.org posts about fcc

The FCC tosses net neutrality out the windowApr 24 2014

According to several sources, the FCC is set to propose new net neutrality rules "that would allow broadband providers to charge companies a premium for access to their fastest lanes." That's decent news for deep-pocketed companies that can pay for faster connectivity and even better news for broadband providers that can charge more for a speedier service. It's bad news for everyone else. Faster service for some means slower service for others. Many of today's big internet companies got that way because they had access to a level playing field. The Internet let the little guy become the big guy. And now the big guy wants to have an unfair advantage with faster pipes. The hell with that.

Ryan Singel: The FCC plans to save the Internet by destroying it.

Tim Wu in The New Yorker: "It threatens to make the Internet just like everything else in American society: unequal in a way that deeply threatens our long-term prosperity."

The dirty BLEEP: things you can't say / things left unsaidAug 27 2013

Maria Bustillos' "Curses! The birth of the bleep and modern American censorship" has a blacked-out subhed. Mouse over the black virtual ink and you see "Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits," George Carlin's original list of Seven Dirty Words that can't be said on radio or television.

How'd we get here? Supposedly it was because of a nursery rhyme vaguely referencing contraception read live on a Newark radio station by actress Olga Petrova: "There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, She had so many children because she didn't know what to do." The rhyme wasn't censored, but engineers later built a switch to turn on music in case anyone recording went blue.

In the US, the government owns the airwaves and regulates their content, and bases its criteria for obscenity in part on past court cases regulating print.

In order to be considered obscenity, the material in question must pass a three-pronged test: first, it has to "appeal to the prurient interest," or be be liable to turn the average person on sexually; secondly, it must describe sexual conduct "in a patently offensive way;" and finally, "the material taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value." The last is how both Ulysses and Lolita slide out of being considered "obscene."

But in addition to obscenity, the FCC also has rules governing "indecency" and "profanity"; all three are technically distinct in the same way that a moron is different from an imbecile, which in turn is different from an idiot. And most of the censorship action happens within TV or radio networks' standards and practices departments anyways.

Once the bleep is introduced, however, it takes on its own meaning. It's a kind of zero-sign that artists can use deliberately for effect.

The writers of Arrested Development are masters of this comic technique, repeatedly pushing the envelope. They snuck the word "fucking" past prime time television censors by putting half the word at the beginning of the show, and half at the end.

But it was with the aid of censor bleeping that Arrested Development reached the summit of its satiric genius. The show's creator, Mitch Hurwitz, told Neda Ulaby of NPR, "We realized, you know, it's more fun to not know exactly what it is that we're saying ... It becomes kind of a puzzle for people. And I think it's about, you know, letting your imagination do the work."

The full essay tracks the legal and cultural history of the bleep from its high-analog origins up to its culmination/obsolescence in the digital dump track. Now if a producer really wants to keep you from hearing something that might make someone uncomfortable, they just cut it right out of the audio, and you'd never know it was there.

Disclosure: I worked at The Verge and discussed this feature when it was in development. Also, freelance writer Maria Bustillos is awesome.

Cynical-C shares some of the more interestingJan 31 2008

Cynical-C shares some of the more interesting complaints received by the FCC about television programming. One viewer complains about The Family Guy:

The show has no redeeming/moral value what so ever. The show actually had the gall to show GOD in bed with a young woman ready to have sexual intercourse and the dialogue to go with that event, including the use of condoms. They also had Jesus and his earthly father Joseph having an argument. Along with portraying the total disrespect of family values Stewie hitting his mother, the father and son ganging up on the wife/mother, there was also a male sexual predator in this episode as well.; The whole show was quite revolting. It should be taken off the air.

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