The National Geographic rule

Thanks to the FCC and the official prudery and censorship of the U.S., the BBC had to think twice about airing a report by Allan Little from Swaziland. From the Editors’ Blog:

So Allan Little’s piece from Swaziland on Friday (watch it here) saw a group of BBC World producers studying the US rule book very carefully… since we broadcast on American cable networks, and have to respect “local” laws.

An image from Allan Little’s reportAllan reported on the “Ceremony of the Reed” – where the King of Swaziland chooses a wife from a parade of women dressed in traditional costume. That is, they weren’t wearing anything on top. There wasn’t really any way of avoiding the issue – that’s how they were dressed, and to have edited out any toplessness would have been bizarre.

But talking to colleagues in the US, it’s pretty clear that American TV channels have become cautious to the extreme on any issues involving either nudity or swearing.

Hmmmm. Breasts bad: see Janet Jackson. Black women’s breasts thus bad. White people cursing OK. Black people cursing bad. What to do? What to do? The BBC decided to take the risk, believing that their nudity was certainly in context. If it works for National Geographic….

  • Sheesh, someone should have informed the BBC that they could have shown videos of the honeymoon, so long as it was only on cable, and not broadcast TV.

  • I guess they’re above paid-members-only video access on the web?

  • Justin

    It is an interesting problem… and unfortunately, I believe it to be mostly due to the fact that most people aren’t sure exactly where the line is drawn for the FCC due to their at times ambiguous application of the ruls.

    Hopefully this is something that will be addressed someday in the near future, but I am inclined to believe that it won’t be. Until then, I guess we’ll be watching the edited “educational” stuff that the rest of the world fully views.


  • Death by Boobies. Lucky Yanks.

  • In March 1989, a BBC Newsnight producer told Chris Hutchins, then a journalist with the “Today” newspaper, that a one-half hour section of “Newsnight,” dealing with the death of Hugh Simmonds, CBE, had been D-Noticed.

    Barely 24 hours later, the same producer denied to Chris that he’d ever mentioned a D-Notice.

    Why the D-notice? Why the denial? Go to This is the scandal of 2006. Be the first or the last. Up to you…

  • grat post jeff – fascinating and provocative insight. thanks.

  • Nat’l Geo has been the source of boob shots for kids since the 40’s at least, I especially recall they were in doctors’ offices. Guess to improve our moral climate, is there retroactive denial available to the Focus on Family?