Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Rights & Reason: Censoring ER

I don't want to say the FCC's "investigation" into the Super Bowl halftime show will lead to censorship, but this story is not encouraging:
Only days after the firestorm created when Janet Jackson exposed her breast during the Super Bowl, plans to air an episode of "ER" on NBC Thursday evening that includes a view of an elderly female patient's bare breast are raising serious concerns among the network's affiliates.

Some NBC affiliates are so uneasy about the scene planned for the first night of sweeps that at least one station group executive described himself Tuesday as "considering what my options are" should NBC decide to air the hour with the exposed breast. "You're not going to find the stations very willing to take the heat," said the station group executive. "I think people are going to be backing off big-time."
. . .
There is a pending FCC investigation of the Super Bowl incident. Last week some stations were fined for earlier incidents and the White House endorsed a call for a ten-fold increase in fines for indecency on TV. There are already indecency hearings on Capitol Hill scheduled and more being threatened.

In light of the atmosphere of fear which has been created, even a tastefully shot, full-on glimpse of a bare breast in a network primetime show inspires less academic and more fearful discussions and concerns. That context led the group executive to predict that should NBC keep the breast scene in, there could be significant defections by affiliates who won't air the show.
An "atmosphere of fear". That doesn't sound like the "compassionate" America George W. Bush is always talking about.

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