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Snip-Snip Here, Snip-Snip There – Network Censors Get Busy

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The Oscars are imposing a five-second delay for the first time, the Grammys had a five-minute delay, and the networks are scrutinizing their shows as they haven’t in years:

    As executives from Viacom Inc. and the NFL head to Washington today to answer questions about sex and profanity on TV, [webcast just ended live here] network censors are sharpening their scissors.

    CBS, a unit of Viacom, last week deleted a brief scene showing a fleeing man’s naked backside from “Without a Trace.” The network has forced a trim from a coming episode of the missing-persons drama, this time a depiction of a couple having sex standing up, sources said. Edits also are affecting CBS’ “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”

    At Walt Disney Co.’s ABC, executives said they had preliminary discussions about trimming a 15-second sex scene from “NYPD Blue,” which returned to the schedule Tuesday night after a two-month hiatus. The footage would be deleted from telecasts in the Central and Mountain time zones, where the series airs one hour earlier than on the coasts and presumably is seen by younger viewers. The 10 p.m. hour is where virtually all envelope-pushing dramas run on the broadcast networks.

    General Electric Co.’s NBC last week trimmed a shot of an elderly woman’s breast from an episode of “ER.” The network acted under pressure from affiliate stations that were nervous after the hubbub over Janet Jackson’s breast being bared during the Feb. 1 Super Bowl halftime show on CBS.

    The networks’ newfound skittishness about nudity is in sharp contrast to their practice of the last few years, when they all took halting steps to match cable networks in pushing edgier, more-explicit programming.

    The premiere last year of the NBC mid-season drama “Kingpin” showed a crime lord’s pet tiger being fed a victim’s severed leg, and nudity and salty language are staples on “NYPD Blue.”

    ….Viacom President and Chief Operating Officer Mel Karmazin and National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue are expected to be grilled by committee members, who are considering increasing the maximum fine for violations of decency rules from $27,500 per occurrence to $275,000.

    “The standards-and-practices departments are being much more vigilant about what’s going through,” one network executive said on condition of anonymity. “I think everybody’s been put on notice” since the Super Bowl.

    ….Producers for broadcast TV have to worry about another force far more powerful than censors or even senators: advertisers. The people who buy time on networks traditionally avoid anything that reeks of controversy.

    John Rash, of the ad firm Campbell Mithun, called the Jackson incident “a crystallizing event of continuous cultural concern.” [LA Times]

Hey, I want shows to have the freedom to be the best they can be, but I also understand the concerns of millions of people who feel betrayed by the media, especially television. I think the only answer is to have very specific and well-publcized rules about what you can show when. It isn’t just the “indecency” of the Super Bowl halftime show that people are so upset about, it’s the violation of trust that goes along with it. It’s okay to “push the envelope” as long as the expectation of envelope-pushing is there.

If they do increase the maximum fine for violations of decency rules from $27,500 per occurrence to $275,000, you wil see everyone take the rules rather seriously.

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About Eric Olsen

  • Robert Brandt

    Discussing this on Capitol Hill? A little overreaction? Amercian thought c. 2004: More Victorian than Victorian times?

    I’m appalled.

    You know what? You’re watching TV with your family. A breast appears on a halftime show. Your kid asks you, “Daddy/Mommy, why did they do that?”. You answer, “Well, that was just those people being stupid and trying to get attention. It wasn’t ok for them to do that, and you know you’re not supposed to act that way, right?” End of story. No reason to call your local affiliate, congressperson, etc.

    All of what’s happening now is brought to you by the same school of thought that wouldn’t allow blacks on primtime TV, or Elvis to be filmed below the waist. It was some time before people like Norman Lear and George Schlatter came along to fix all that. What will happen this time?

  • Eric Olsen

    Without getting into the merits of a flash of breast on TV, the point is that it was a violation of public trust: 200,000 people DID bother to complain, that’s a lot. The public has a right to set standards for the public airwaves and not see them violated. That’s all this is really about.

  • Robert Brandt

    Absolutely. Break the Howard Stern all- time fine record for this, and be done with it. I’m just smelling some kind of inquisition/purge/witch hunt on the horizon.

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    200,000 people DID bother to complain

    this is friggin’ scary to me.

    here’s a list of stuff we’ve got to deal with:

    -the war in Iraq
    -terrorism
    -a sputtering economy (yea, it’s growing…sort of)
    -the whole israel/palestine disaster

    …and we’re freakin’ out over whats on the TV.

  • Eric Olsen

    Because it’s right there in people’s homes, very invasive, and they felt violated – the other things are more diffuse and not in their nutsacks.

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    yea, it is right there in their homes…

    and that’s the problem. we watch waaaaay too much television in this country, and it’s suckin’ our brains out through our eyeballs.

    i drive down the street at night and see that danged blue glow coming out of nearly every window. it’s depressing.

  • Robert Brandt

    This isn’t in the “parting shot” category, but I just thought of it, as I’m slow: It was ok to air 24/7 worth of government sanctioned REAL violence during the war last year, but a boob brings down the pillars of society?

  • Chris Kent

    I think the best thing to come out of the Janet Jackson boob flash is that we will never have to see Dennis Franz’s naked ass again.

    Thank you Janet. Thank you!

  • http://WWW.PANTERA.COM PANTERA-PSYKO

    JANET JACKSON JUST WANTS TO FURTHER HER CAREER, WHICH HAS GONE DOWN THE SEWER PIPE.. TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH.. THE HALF-TIME SHOW ONLY MADE ME HATE JANET MORE THAN I HATED HER BEFORE.. I MEAN, WHO WANTS TO SEE HER OLD DANCE MOVES THAT SHE’S BEEN DOING FOR THE LAST 20 YEARS.. HAHA.. NOT ME. AND AS FAR AS HER TIT POPPING OUT.. IT ONLY ASSURED ME MORE OF HER BEING A DIRTY LOW DOWN MEDIA SLUT.. WILLING TO DO ANYTHING FOR ATTENTION.. EVEN TRY TO TAKE THE SPOT LIGHT OFF THE GREATEST SPORTS EVENT EVER.. THE SUPER BOWL.. NEVER MIND THAT CHILDEREN ARE WATCHING THE SHOW..(NOT THAT THEY HAVEN’T SEEN THAT TYPE OF STUFF BEFORE.. BUT CAN’T WE ESCAPE THAT KIND OF CONTENT FOR JUST A FEW MOMENTS?) AT LEAST NOW ALOT MORE PEOPLE THINK OF JANET JACKSON AS A DIRTY WHORE.. and NOT JUST ME.. :-)
    OH YEAH.. JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE IS STILL A FAG.. HE ONLY AGREED TO DO THE STUNT SO PEOPLE WOULD THINK THAT HE’S STRAIT.

  • http://www.fuckfrance.com/read.html?postid=567179&replies=9&page=1 Jessica Director

    I totally agree with what you said. I couldn’t believe it when I saw that happen during the half time show. They always have the worst people perform during half time shows during the superbowl. I mean, the guy that was on before her kept grabbing his crotch. Who wants to see some guy grab his balls while he’s singing.. when all you want to do is watch the superbowl. These days you can’t even watch a football game on TV with your family, without some washed up singer trying to expose herself to get in the spotlight again.. I guess she got what she wanted, but alot of people were turned off by what she and Justin Timberlake did. Hopefully both of their careers will get flushed.. for the sake of us all.