By Scott Collins
Los Angeles Times via McClatchy-Tribune
LOS ANGELES — The government shutdown that started early Tuesday has already hit the Federal Communications Commission, the government agency that among other things regulates obscenity on what used to be known as the public airwaves.
Which has led some viewers to ask: Does this mean that broadcast TV will turn into a rat’s nest of foul language and naked bodies? Teacher is away, so there might be orgies on “Castle.” No oversight, so that means f-bombs on “The X-Factor.” CBS might turn into HBO.
Not so fast. Yes, it is true that the FCC has closed up shop, telling roughly 1,700 workers not to bother coming in. Bureaucrats being bureaucrats, the good folks there even published a memo – an inaction plan, if you will – detailing how they would shut down in “orderly” fashion.
But thinking that an FCC closure means everyone on “Big Bang Theory” strips down is like thinking that the government shutdown means no more taxes (yes, exactly, say some conservatives – but that’s another story).
Odds are good that the FCC is going to come back again someday. And when it does, it will begin fielding complaints again – including those from viewers who took notes during the shutdown. A funding-related door-shuttering doesn’t overturn federal law or cancel the FCC’s mandate. It also doesn’t mean that the FCC can’t revoke the license of any broadcaster who flouts its rules, shutdown or no.
In fact, there’s evidence that during a shutdown, the FCC commissioners work anyway. That’s the contention of former commissioner Susan Ness, who wrote that when Westinghouse was merging with CBS in 1995, the agency chiefs kept working on merger issues straight through that shutdown, when House Republicans were battling President Bill Clinton.
So for anyone on network TV, the message might be: Swear today, pay tomorrow.