Frontline’s The Solider’s Heart airs tonight on most PBS stations. It is an important examination of the mental impact of the war in Iraq on soldiers. Like A Company of Soldiers (which I wrote about and is now online), it has profanity and the main feed will have annoying bleeps.
In the statement below, PBS and Frontline say that the language in this documentary is on shakier legal ground, but I found it to be appropriate. The soldiers are describing what happened to them and their feelings using their own words, words which more people need to hear.
We hope you’ve had a chance to screen next Tuesday’s FRONTLINE, “The Soldier’s Heart,” a powerful exploration of the psychological costs of war.
Those of you who have viewed the program will have heard the use of several expletives by soldiers interviewed as they describe their battlefield experiences. PBS and FRONTLINE believe the use of these words is editorially justified. Nevertheless, PBS, WGBH, and FRONTLINE have decided to offer PBS stations two versions – one edited which bleeps the expletives – based on legal counsel’s assessment of the risk for possible FCC fines.
Each FRONTLINE film is assessed by counsel regarding the potential for legal and financial risk to PBS and its stations based on current interpretation(s) of FCC guidelines, which provide no clear-cut or official rulings to guide our decisions. Regretfully, in this uncertain climate, we are compelled to err on the side of caution. Neither PBS nor its member stations has the financial means to wage a legal battle in the courts if subject to FCC sanctions regardless of the editorial merits of this program. We advocate that the FCC clarify its rulings on indecency so that program producers and broadcasters are not left in the difficult position of self-censoring programs to the detriment of our adult viewing audience.
In the case of “The Soldier’s Heart,” legal assessment indicates that this program will be more difficult to defend before the FCC than the case presented in “A Company of Soldiers,” where expletives were used in the heat of battle.
PBS and FRONTLINE urge stations that usually carry FRONTLINE at 9 p.m. local time to carry the edited version of “The Soldier’s Heart” at their usual time. For those stations that normally air FRONTLINE at 10 p.m. or later, PBS will also make available the unedited version. Any PBS station broadcasting the unedited program prior to 10 p.m. local time does so at its own legal and financial risk.
If your stations doesn’t air the uncensored version, it will be online later this week.
NPR did a related story on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
And there is much more to read on my weblog.