The Daily Stern: The Code
: SEAL OF GOOD CENSORSHIP: Since broadcasters — under pressure from government — are considering reinstating a code of decency, I thought I’d reexamine the Code of Practices that was rescinded — under pressure from government, namely the Reagan administration — in the ’80s. Or in our parlance, I’m fisking The Code.
As irrelevant as The Code became, it’s quite relevant today, for it will necessarily be the starting point, the touchstone for any new Code they create. Where’s the line? Well, that’s just the problem, isn’t it? Where’s the line? And who says where that is?
Some excerpts and comments:
Profanity, obscenity, smut and vulgarity are forbidden, even when likely to be understood only by part of the audience. From time to time, words which have been acceptable acquire undesirable meanings, and telecasters should be alert to eliminate such words.
No boobs, you boobs.
Attacks on religion and religous faiths are not allowed.
Reverence is to mark any mention of the name of God, His attributes and powers…. [Clergy] portrayed in their callings are vested with the dignity of their office and under no circumstances are to be held up to ridicule.
So The Code is explicitly trying to proselytize the nation. And it won’t allow us to make fun of, oh, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, or hundreds of kiddie-diddling priests.
Respect is to be maintained for the sanctity of marriage and the value of the home. Divorce is not treated casually nor justified as a solution for marital problems.
So much for “The Burning Bed.”
Illicit sex relatoins are not treated as commendable.
So much for prime time.
Drunkenness and narcotic addiction are never presented as desirable or prevalent.
The administration of illegal drugs will not be displayed.
Just ignore them and they’re not there.
Exhibitions of fortune-telling, astrology, phrenology, palm-reading, and numerology are acceptable only when required by a plot…
So much for Crossing Over with John Edward.
Televised drama shall not simulate news or special events in such a way as to mislead or alarm.
So much for every storyline “ripped from the headlines.”
The presentation of cruelty, greed and selfishness as worthy motivations is to be avoided.
So much for reality TV.
Unfair exploitation of others for personal gain shall not be presented as praiseworthy.
Donald Trump: You’re fired!
The presentation of techniques of crime in such detail as to invite imitation shall be avoided.
CSI: You’re canceled.
The use of horror for its own sake will be eliminated; the use of vusual or aural effects which would shock or alarm the viewer, and the detailed presentation of brutality or physical agony by sight or by sound are not permissible.
Well, I guess you won’t be seeing Mel Gibson’s The Passion on TV.
Law enforcement shall be upheld, and the officers of the law are to be portrayed with respect and dignity.
Unless they rob, steal, or beat up people for no reason. OK, destroy the Rodney King tape.
The presentation of murder or revenge as a motive for murder shall not be presented as justifiable.While you’re at it, destroy those “Murder, She Wrote” tapes.
The costuming of all performers shall be within the bounds of propriety, and shall avoid such exposure or such emphasis on anatomical detail as would embarrass or offend home viewers.
The movements of dancers, actors, or other performers shall be kept within the bounds of decency, and lewdness and impropriety shall not be suggested in the positions assumed by the performers.
Camera angles shall avoid such views of performers as to emphasize anatomical details indecently.
Henceforth to be known as the Janet Jackson Clause.
News reporting should be factual, fair, and without bias.
Commentary and analysis should be clearly identified as such.
Good taste should prevail in the selection and handling of news.
Insert punchline of choice here.
It is the responsibility of a television broadcaster to make available to the community as part of a well-balanced program schedule adequate opportunity for religious presentations….
A charge for television time to churches and religous bodies is not recommended.
What’s most frightening, of course, is that some people reading all this today would be nodding their heads, eager for the return of The Code. That’s where they would draw The Line. In fact, under the heat of government pressure, that’s where many stations are starting to draw The Line. But it’s not government’s job to draw lines or force others to. We, the market, the citizens, are capable of doing that.
If the marketplace truly demanded this kind of TV, it’s the TV you’d end up with because that would be the way for broadcasters to make money. But the marketplace listens to Howard Stern … and watches sitcoms with sex and divorce … and dramas with crime and more sex … and the marketplace doesn’t watch religion…
It’s the government that’s pushing for The Code, the government that’s drawing The Line, the government that’s trying to control what we say and hear and watch.
The Reagan Administration got rid of The Code for a reason. There’s no good reason to bring it back.
: UPDATE: Ernie Miller highlights yet more frightening lines in the old Code.