Is the FCC’s “bullshit” receding?

Those who work in media, entertainment, journalism or right-wing religion – or who have an inkling of interest in free speech and censorship – are well aware of the FCC’s ambiguous assault recently on free speech and our public U.S. airwaves. on the report:

A breast, it seems, is not always a breast. In FCC-speak, "dickhead" is OK, "bullshit" isn’t. The F-word is acceptable in "Saving Private Ryan," but not in a PBS documentary about blues musicians. And Oprah Winfrey can have explicit discussions about teenage sex in the afternoon, but a drama-"Without a Trace"-shown at 9 p.m. in some markets, dealing equally seriously with the same issue, is verboten.

In light of this ruling, there’s no question that use of the word bullshit will recede on the public airwaves. However, I do wonder if use of the word will recede in other places where the likes of the FCC have no jurisdiction. For example, the blogosphere – which in many regards is a proxy of our passionate, public discourse – seems to be trending toward less mentions of the word. In fact, there has been less bullshit (actual number of daily occurrences) in recent weeks – since the FCC ruling – than there has been over the past three months. I’ll revisit this a few months to see if an actual trend is underway.

Daily mentions of keywords "bullshit" and "FCC" in the blogosphere (click image for hi-res):


Source: Nielsen BuzzMetrics

I’m not sure exactly how influential language on television is on our discourse, but television is a major presence in our lives. According to Nielsen Media Research (affiliated with the company I work for, Nielsen BuzzMetrics), the average household in the U.S. tunes into television 8 hours and 11 minutes per day, and the average person watches television 4 hours and 32 minutes each day. See here via MediaPost.

For analysis on this FCC story, see (or listen to) Bob Garfield’s good analysis on On The Media and Jeff Jarvis’s “In defense of bullshit” post on BuzzMachine.

Finally, I personally don’t like the BS word. I sometimes use it to evoke skepticism, but consider it a bad habit. So please pardon my use of it in this post.

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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