After M.I.A. performed with Madonna at the Super Bowl halftime show, media coverage connected her use of her middle finger to Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction implying that the singer and network could face similar scrutiny. However, these complaints do not seem to be coming from the viewers or directed at the FCC; the Parents Television council has said they do not plan to file with the Federal Communications Commission. Due to the reactionary nature of the FCC, strict guidelines are not set for what consists of decent programming.
Currently, a case within the Supreme Court is debating whether the current guidelines set in place for the FCC are constitutional. Large fines can be placed for even accidental (on the networks part) expletives and regulates media content. This use of regulation is justified, despite claims that it inhibits freedom of the press, because the airwaves are a public resource and should meet standards for all potential viewers. However, even if it is within the rights of the FCC to regulate content, are current standards, due to their vague nature, set too high? Massive fines can be applied in accidental or unclear situations, causing some to say current standards are unfair, especially because cable has provided a wider range of options for audiences to choose what is appropriate for themselves.
Regardless of the ultimate decision, it is clear that a process of regulation based on complaints has lead to warped standards of decency in prime time television. While many live broadcasts are being challenged, many scripted shows seem to go unchecked or ignored, as pointed out on The Daily Show. Shows, therefore, try to find a balance between shocking, attention and ratings grabbing plotlines, and avoiding potential fines.