F the FCC

F the FCC

: That’s not winter you feel coming. That’s the chill of the FCC regulating speech. An Iowa station decided not to run Saving Private Ryan for fear of FCC fines. Its statement:

As many of you may be aware, the Federal Communications Commission has changed its standards for certain content related to programming broadcast before 10pm. These changes followed the Janet Jackson incident at the Super Bowl earlier this year. The inconsistent manner in which the FCC is choosing to apply these rules puts TV stations like ours in a most difficult position. As this relates to Saving Private Ryan, our concern centers on whether the FCC would consider the context in which the intense adult language and graphic battleground violence is presented in the movie. Would the FCC conclude that the movie has sufficient social, artistic, literary, historical or other kinds of value that would protect us from breaking the law? Can a movie with an “M” rating, however prestigious the production or poignant the subject matter, be shown before 10pm? With the current FCC, we just don’t know. This is the case even though this same movie has been broadcast in primetime twice before on this station without complaint. Adding to our frustration is the fact that a fine motion picture like Saving Private Ryan can be shown on cable or satellite without any government agency restriction or regulation.

We regret that we are not able to broadcast a patriotic, artistic tribute to our fighting forces like Saving Private Ryan. However, on this Veterans Day, we do wish to pay tribute to all the men and women -past and present -who so nobly serve our country.

[via LostRemote]

: UPDATE: Lost Remote reports that 20 more stations dropped the movie.

  • I may be wrong, but that sounds like the station trying to manipulate policy by highlighting an obviously absurd example. Not a bad strategy, usually, and it’s been used to great effect by the pro-choice lobby (parental notification? but the teenage girl would have to get permission for an abortion from her father who raped her!). But it seems a bit disingenuous, and I hate to see a fine film and a great (though undervalued) holiday used in this kind of manipulation, no matter how good the ultimate intentions.

  • Mumblix Grumph

    When I was a kid I saw a scene from a movie about WWI where the protagonist was terribly wounded and was screaming “No, don’t let them cut off my legs too!: This was after he had already lost his arms.
    That freaked me out so badly that I still have a problem with it.
    Kids don’t need to watch scenes of horrible violence at a young age, no matter how high the production values or noble the actions depicted therin. There is plenty of time for people to become familiar with horrific violence, we don’t need to hurry.
    I don’t see a problem with wanting to shield them from this. I saw Saving Private Ryan and afterwards, I felt all wrung out. I was in my 30’s then, I can’t imagine how I’d have reacted if I was 8 or 9 years old.
    Discretion is not censorship.

  • MWB

    So show it after 10 p.m.
    I have no problem with the station wanting clarity from the FCC, but to claim that free speech is chilled because there are some time-of-day restrictions on intense, R-rated films seems disingenuous.

  • So what’s the big deal? You can rent it out from Blockbuster. This isn’t the 70s — we aren’t dependent on broadcast tv for our crumbs of entertainment.

  • Chad P.

    “As this relates to Saving Private Ryan, our concern centers on whether the FCC would consider the context in which the intense adult language and graphic battleground violence is presented in the movie. Would the FCC conclude that the movie has sufficient social, artistic, literary, historical or other kinds of value that would protect us from breaking the law?”
    Maybe this is a stupid question, but couldn’t the station (or network) simply ask the FCC – “hey, guys, we’d like to run this movie, at such and such a time, with such and such warnings. Will you fine or punish us if we do”?

  • The stations did ask for clarification from the FCC, and the FCC (correctly, in my view) said that to act prior to airing would be censorship. Given that owner of several of the twenty stations addressed it this way, it appears to be as much political statement as fear of the FCC:

    Cole cited recent FCC actions and last week’s re-election of President Bush as reasons for replacing “Saving Private Ryan” on Thursday with a music program and the TV movie “Return to Mayberry.”

    “We’re just coming off an election where moral issues were cited as a reason by people voting one way or another and, in my opinion, the commissioners are fearful of the new Congress,” Cole said.

    Return to Mayberry? Give me a break.

  • The cynical manipulation here is breathtaking. This is clearly a calculated move by media against their own viewers. The stations are full of violent programming, so it is *extremely* telling that they’ve all chosen to make an issue about a popular war film, and tie it in directly to veteran’s day.
    People know what they’re getting when they’re tuning into a war movie that’s known for its graphic realism; the issue with Janet Jackson was that it was inappropriate for the middle of a football game which kids were watching in droves.
    This kind of childish action does not reflect well on media *at all*.

  • Bob

    These stations are at no risk at all. They know it and are just pulling a game. Look at at least one station’s replacement choice (Return to Mayberry). They are making a naked political power stunt. Jeff fell for it.

  • jeff fell for what?
    you cant say the f-word before 10pm.
    even if it’s in a great movie.
    if i was the station i wouldnt show it either.
    OR i would demand to get a ruling from the FCC before i ran it. which wont happen cuz the FCC likes to play games.

  • Rox

    Let me get this straight. You can watch a woman simulating sex with her teenage gardener on the same network, right?
    Maybe it IS time to leave America after all.

  • Angelos

    ABC showed Ryan in 2001 and 2002, some complaints, no fines.
    Today, there would be a firestorm of complaints, and the FCC would probably cave, so Powell could keep his job in the theocracy our nation has become.
    To think that useless f-ing scolds who have nothing better to do than complain have so much sway over the lives of people with brains.
    What kind of asshole has the gumption to call ABC, but can’t just flip the channel? Especialy when something is heavily advertised with very clear warning to the squeamish, why were you even on that channel anyway?
    Let’s see what happens when XYZ network wants to run Passion next Easter. Will these pathetic, hypocrticial thumpers complain then, about vilence, and “the children”, etc?
    So Mumblix, this is not discretion, this is fear of government.
    Carsonfire and Bob, I hope you didn’t sprain your backs, twisting this around like you did. TV stations are legitimately afraid of the legal environment under a Republican government, so it must be a liberal media stunt.

  • This is such a bogus attempt to cry “intimidation!” on the part of the TV stations that it’s not even laughable.
    And people wonder if the media is politically biased?

  • Angelos: ABC showed Ryan in 2001 and 2002, some complaints, no fines.
    Oh, thank you! So there is actual precedence that tells us and those networks that networks will *not* be fined for showing the TV-edited version of Sergeant Ryan… so not only do we suspect that these stations are playing victim for political purpose, we now have proof that they are doing so.

  • Oh, and somebody correct me if I’m wrong, because I don’t watch that much network TV anymore… but it’s been my experience that f-words and its cousins are routinely overdubbed in edited-for-TV editions of these films. For instance, anytime a network shows The Jerk, Steve Martin’s dog “Sh*thead” becomes something more benign, like “Butthead”. At least one network movie I’ve seen this year did in fact have a couple of obvious overdubbed moments like that.
    And so if ABC has shown this before — twice! — as Angelos has informed us, then this most certainly would have been the case, and so the argument that the network is oh-so-concerned about the f-word now is, well, another f-word, fake.

  • Angelos

    Since the last broadcast, it just so happens that some useless “singer” flashed her saggy old breast during a sporting event, and the rules changed. The problem is, no one knows what the rules are. Oprah, salad tossing, educational. Howard, salad tossing, vulgar.
    Of course, this doesn’t fit into your worldview, so you must shoehorn this into your “liberal media” rant, because everything the Bush administration does is done well.
    We must be protected from the truth…

  • Angelos

    So it’s OK for you that the FCC is the Bush admin’s right arm putting a chill on speech and art?
    Let’s see now:
    -There are a lot of people without DVD players, without VCRs, and without cable or satellite.
    -A major broadcaster, in honor of our troops, wants to show a classic, and beloved, war movie, one that could be an ‘national event’ movie in a time of war.
    -They showed it successfully in 2000 and 2001, with some complaints, but no fines of course
    -They’d been promoting it heavily, always with “Viewer discretion advised”
    -They couldn’t get a straight answer from the FCC in time for this year’s broadcast
    Do you know why they can’t get straight answer from the FCC in advance? Because the FCC waits to see how many unemployed scolds (or, if you prefer, “Christian” wingnuts) call them with complaints. Ergo, Oprah talks about tossed salads at 4pm on TV – that’s educational. Howard talks about them the next morning at 9:30AM, discussing the Oprah show, that’s prurient. No, it’s the same thing, but you have to grease the bible-thumper pole, and the thumpers complain about Howard.
    You know, it’s about the “children”.
    Of course, at 4 PM, children are home from school. At 9:30 AM, they shouldn’t be anywhere near a radio.
    You’re an adult. Take responsibility for yourself. No sane person would invite MORE government involvement in his life. Do you need Uncle Sam to wipe your ass for you too?
    A co-teacher of my fianc

  • Angelos

    “Values” and “Family” and “Support our Troops” hypocrits, Bush voters, you wanted it, you got it.
    Wildmon (he’s still around???) is encouraging his flock to complain to the FCC, even if they DIDN’T WATCH THE MOVIE!!!!! Even if they DIDN’T KNOW IF THEIR AFFILIATE ACTUALLY BROADCAST IT!!!
    Be afraid, be very afraid. Except Bush voters. Your coccoon will arrive in the mail shortly.
    November 12, 2004
    File an indecency complaint against ABC for ‘f’ word and ‘s’ word
    Dear James,
    Last night (November 11), the ABC network broadcast “Saving Private
    We believe “Saving Private Ryan” accurately depicted what happens during fierce battles between two armies. The graphic depictions of atrocious injuries, mental stress, profane language, and brutality are likely common occurrences in war.
    But ABC crossed the line by airing at least 20 “f” words and 12 “s” words during prime time viewing hours!
    We realize it is important for families, especially our children, to recognize the sacrifices made by our loved ones during wartime. However, airing excessively profane language during prime-time television hours is not necessary to convey that sacrifice. We believe ABC should have aired their salute to heroes without violating broadcast decency laws.
    Despite the FCC finding the use of the “f” word indecent during the Golden Globe Awards last year, ABC flaunted the law by airing it at least 20 times!
    The technology exists for ABC to have edited the movie’s language without affecting its impact on the audience. The realities of war do not automatically give the ABC entertainment network FCC approval to air the “f” word and the “s” word on public airwaves during prime time viewing hours when children are likely to be watching.
    If ABC goes unchallenged, the door is open to these words being used anytime the networks choose! They can simply say the words were used “in context” to real life and get away with it.
    It is vital that we not let ABC violate the law for the sake of an emotionally charged movie. If we do, we will pay a dear price on future movies and shows broadcast by the networks.
    If your local ABC station broadcast “Saving Private Ryan,” please file your complaint with the FCC. If you are not sure, follow this link to find contact information for your ABC station and call or email them to find out. http://capwiz.com/afanet/dbq/media
    File your complaint against ABC for broadcasting indecency now!
    Donald E. Wildmon, Chairman

  • David R. Block

    Gee, Jeff, I’m not sure what their point is. They air “All my Children,” “One Life to Live,” “Wife Swap,” “The Bachelor,” and “General Hospital” with various varieties of sexual innuendo and are not fined, but they’re afraid of a movie?
    Sounds, I don’t know, a little like selective censorship designed to manipulate public opinion. I still blame the stations.