“Modern Family’s” precocious Lily learned a lesson about dropping the F-bomb on last night’s episode. Now, will federal regulators teach ABC and the show a lesson about profanity on prime-time television?
The ground-breaking show’s plans were under fire even before the show aired from parents’ advocacy groups. But ABC chose to ignore the protests. The next stop is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The agency has the power to fine the network for violating decency standards.
Under the Bush administration, the agency aggressively pursued impropriety over the airwaves. It fined CBS $500,000 after Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. Her breast was exposed for less than a second.
The network, however, won a key court battle last November. A three-judge Appeals Court panel in Philadelphia upheld its earlier ruling that the FCC’s indecency fine was invalid. The Bush FCC also admonished Fox for cursing by celebrities during The Billboard Music Awards in 2002 and 2003. The agency ruled the broadcasts violated its policy, but did not fine the network.
Last week, lawyers for broadcasters argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking to overturn a 1978 court decision; it upheld the FCC’s power to regulate radio and television content during prime-time hours before 10 p.m. The case is under advisement.
On this week’s “Modern Family,” Cam chuckled as two-year-old daughter Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons) dropped the f-bomb. Lily thought Cam’s laughter meant using the word was funny. Afterward, she used it at several, shall we say, sensitive moments, to lighten Cam’s mood.
Modern Family Challenges FCC Directly
Lily actually says “fudge” according to the show. But the conservative Parents Television Council was not amused. “It’s not suitable language for a child that young in the real world, and it’s not suitable language for a child that young on television, either,” it said in a statement.
The segment was supposed to feature what parents go through the first time their child utters a profanity. Modern Family just won a Golden Globe and is television’s top-rated comedy. Given the Supreme Court case, it will be interesting to see if the FCC acts.
Under the Obama administration, it’s been more tolerant of so-called slips and accidental utterances. But the “Modern Family” episode is a direct challenged to the FCC’s policy for family viewing hours.