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….