Well, I know now why “The Walking Dead” was able to air that horrific episode last week.
It is because the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), for the most part, still operates like it’s 1934.
That was the year the FCC was created, and for 82 years, it has stood guard over TV and radio broadcast networks.
Since 1964, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, federal law has banned "obscene, indecent and profane" content from broadcast TV and radio. That includes content that depicts sexual conduct or contains language that is "patently offensive" or "a public nuisance."
And since 1996, the FCC has required broadcasters to warn parents before they air objectionable material.
So how could a show airing at 9 p.m. on a Sunday night — when any 9-year-old could be passing by the TV — be able to depict a lunatic beating two men’s heads in with a barbed wire-covered baseball bat. No impressionable 13-year-old should have the capability to see their bodies, a pool of brain matter where their heads should be, for the rest of the episode. Right?
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I wrote that out loud because we need to talk about it out loud. It shouldn't be allowed. Even for money.
When I called the FCC after the gory episode and asked how the "Dead" creators could get away with that, spokesman Will Wiquist's response was:
“It’s on cable, right?”
He quickly sent an official written response after that, reminding that: “The commission’s broadcast indecency rules only apply to broadcast networks — like ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX. 'The Walking Dead' is aired on a pay-TV cable channel, to which the commission’s indecency rules do not apply.”
Do not apply.
So what he said at first: It’s on cable, right? So we can have decency only on the old broadcast networks, right?
Meanwhile, cable networks are ensuring that we become so immune to violence and indecency that it takes a presidential campaign to remind us that we really need some rules regarding sex, lies and violence and what is really objectionable.
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With nearly unfettered, almost entirely self-regulated cable broadcasting, you can buy your post-traumatic stress disorder all day long in a free America.
And we wonder where school shooters and thugs and monsters get their ideas.
We have freedom-of-speeched ourselves to death — and then ask ourselves what has happened.
Last Sunday, 20.8 million people tuned in to a horrific episode of a popular show that went farther than perhaps any show in history.
That episode of “The Walking Dead” was the series finale for me, and I've watched the show for its entire run. The series denouement for me was a dream sequence showing the beloved survivors — who battled zombies and bad guys for six seasons — sitting happily at a long outdoor table enjoying a meal and each other.
Of the 20 million people who watched that episode. I hope millions more turn away now, too. I want the show to be penalized in some way. Poor ratings would be a good start.
But the best outcome would be "The Walking Dead" forcing Congress to re-examine decency rules for what should and shouldn't be allowed — even for money — before our need to be unfettered forces us to lose our souls.
Contact Rochelle Riley: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.