03/28/2008 02:45 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Network TV Pushes Language Limits To Keep Up With Cable

After huge fines and public outrage, the now infamous Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" at the 2004 Super Bowl was supposed to have had a chilling effect on broadcast television's drive to rattle the cages of social convention. But instead, the major networks have only gotten hotter, particularly when it comes to language.

Moments like last month's bleeping of Sally Field's expletive at the Emmys can be a distraction to what has actually been going on in prime-time scripted programs for years -- the steady rise in coarse language. Unlike live award shows, live sporting events or cable, broadcast television operates in a much stricter world where government decency rules are at their tightest, the word choices most carefully considered and the level of scrutiny -- and potential for fines -- are at their greatest.

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