This year marks the 10th anniversary of the now-infamous 2002 Billboard Awards where an “f-bomb” in Cher’s acceptance speech triggered a long, drawn-out legal battle between the FCC and the broadcast networks. It reached all the way to the Supreme Court, which rendered a decision in May that didn’t strike down the FCC’s authority to go after so-called fleeting expletives (though it questioned to what extent the agency wants to crack down on racy content on broadcast television.) Will the FCC use its power again after actor Tom Hanks also uttered the f-word on live TV, during a segment this morning on Good Morning America.
In his defense, Hanks was prompted by host Elizabeth Vargas to show off the accent he uses in the sci-fi movie Cloud Atlas he was there to promote and was reluctant, noting that he mostly used the accent for curse words in the film. When Vargas persisted, he did a few lines and sure enough, an f-bomb slipped through, leading to profuse on-air apologies by him and Vargas. ABC News quickly issued a statement on the accident, calling Hanks’ use of expletive “accidental” and noting that “the show was corrected for all subsequent feeds”. With the Internet it’s hard to hide such blunders, though, with a clip featuring the unedited ‘f-bomb’ making the rounds this morning. (Check it out below.)
The Parents Television Council, the watchdog whose relentless campaign was instrumental in the FCC imposing big fees over Cher’s “fleeting” profanity, is already on the case. “This is just another in a long, sad string of similar instances where all of the major network morning shows have permitted this inappropriate and offensive content,” said PTC Director of Public Policy Dan Isett. “These cannot and must not be dismissed as ‘mistakes,’ and it’s time for the networks to step up, take responsibility for what they broadcast, and ensure that this never happens again.” It remains to be seen whether the FCC will act.