President Trump often uses profane language, leading news organizations to feel they can — or even must — repeat the message since it came from the leader of the United States.
The FCC has said repeatedly that there is no blanket rule exempting news programming from its indecency rules — so theoretically, a broadcaster could face an indecency action at the FCC for the use of a proscribed word on the air, even in a newscast. However, the FCC has recognized that decisions made about the language used in newscasts are subject to a different level of First Amendment protection than language that might be included in an entertainment program. But caution is advised.
The FCC received complaints after NBC and CNN used the word “shithole” in their coverage of the controversy over comments President Donald Trump reportedly made to lawmakers during a meeting about immigration. An FCC spokesman said they received a “handful” of comments, but did not have an exact figure yet. The agency reviews each complaint to decide whether to take any type of action.
What exactly can you not say on television? Both cable and broadcast networks seem to be pushing the envelope, but it’s not that the rules — which have always been fairly vague — have explicitly gotten looser. It’s that the standards reflect the times. And in 2016, our collective vocabulary is edgier than ever.
The watchdog group says a comparison of the first two weeks of the 2010 fall season’s prime-time programming on the broadcast networks with a comparable period in 2005 shows a significant increase in both the number of instances of use of profanity, and the harshness of the profanity used.