More than half of U.S. adults say FCC should have authority to fine major TV networks for airing a single expletive.

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NEW YORK (July 12, 2007) – More than half (52%) of adult Americans say the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should have authority to fine any of the major broadcast TV networks, such as NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX, for airing a single expletive or “four letter word,” according to a new poll conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Morality in Media. Forty-two percent of adult Americans disagreed with the statement. Here are the question and results:

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, should have authority to fine any of the major broadcast TV networks, such as NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX, for airing a single expletive or ‘four letter word?'”

Do you agree or disagree? And is that strongly [agree/disagree] or just somewhat [agree/disagree]?

Agree (total strongly agree and somewhat agree): 52%

Strongly agree: 31%

Somewhat agree: 21%

Disagree (total strongly disagree and somewhat disagree): 42%

Strongly disagree: 23%

Somewhat disagree: 19%

Neither agree nor disagree: 2%

Don’t know/Refused: 3%

Among women who work and have children in the home, 69% agreed, 39% strongly so.
Among those adults between the ages of 45-54, 62% agreed, 39% strongly so.

The survey was conducted by telephone by Harris Interactive on behalf of Morality in Media between July 5, 2007, and July 9, 2007 of 1,003 U.S. adults ages 18 and over. Sampling error is + / -3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. A full methodology statement can be obtained by contacting Robert Peters at 212-870-3210

Robert W. Peters, President of Morality in Media, commented:

“There is a perception on the part of many in the secular entertainment and news media that because they, along with many in their circle of friends or co-workers, curse with impunity, most everyone else must do likewise, or at least not be bothered too much by it. “There is also a perception that our nation’s founding fathers put their lives, fortunes and sacred honor on the line so that those in the media could curse up a storm, not only in the workplace but also in front of microphones that send filthy language unsolicited into tens of millions of homes.

“There is also a perception that many federal judges agree with them, which is why broadcast TV networks sued in federal court challenging various FCC determinations that the broadcasters violated the broadcast indecency law and challenging the constitutionality of the law itself, a law that has been on the books since 1927 and that has been upheld by the Supreme Court.

“In one of those lawsuits, the TV networks argued that the FCC had no authority to fine a network for airing a ‘fleeting expletive,’ and last month two federal Court of Appeals judges seemed to agree with them. Furthermore, the two judges seemed to think the FCC no longer has authority to fine a broadcaster, even if the broadcaster airs curse words continuously.

“The truth is that while many Americans may on occasion utter an expletive, most adults also understand that cursing or swearing is not acceptable behavior, especially around children. In other words, unlike TV networks, most adult Americans still have some standards.

“The truth also is that the First Amendment was never intended to endow the media with a right to curse whenever, wherever and however it wants, and as much as it wants.

“This is not to say that the FCC should fine a broadcast licensee whenever an expletive is uttered over the airwaves. In the 1978 FCC v. Pacifica case, the Supreme Court observed that the FCC’s decision in that case ‘rested entirely on a nuisance rationale under which context is all-important.’

“It is to say that to give broadcasters a ‘right’ to curse at least once in every program borders on madness, and to give broadcasters an unlimited right to curse crosses that border.”

Morality in Media is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that works to curb traffic in obscenity and uphold standards of decency in the media. MIM is headquartered in New York City.

About Harris Interactive:  Harris Interactive is the 12th largest and fastest-growing market research firm in the world. The company provides innovative research, insights and strategic advice to help its clients make more confident decisions which lead to measurable and enduring improvements in performance. Harris Interactive is widely known for The Harris Poll, one of the longest running, independent opinion polls and for pioneering online market research methods. The company has built what it believes to be the world’s largest panel of survey respondents, the Harris Poll Online. Harris Interactive serves clients worldwide through its United States, Europe and Asia offices, its wholly-owned subsidiaries Novatris in France and MediaTransfer AG in Germany, and through a global network of independent market research firms. More information about Harris Interactive may be obtained at


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Author: MIM   07/12/2007

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