November 11, 2004

ABC affiliates cancel Saving Private Ryan over decency fears

ABC's scheduled movie for tonight, Saving Private Ryan, the award-winning World War II epic, is being pre-empted on a number of ABC stations over fears regarding the salty language in the movie.

In a statement on the Web site of Atlanta's WSB-TV, the station's vice president and general manager, Greg Stone cited a March ruling in which the FCC said an expletive uttered by rock star Bono during NBC's live airing of the 2003 Golden Globe Awards was both indecent and profane.

The agency made it clear then that virtually any use of the F-word — which is used in "Saving Private Ryan" — was inappropriate for over-the-air radio and television.

The Bono case "reversed years of prior policy that the context of language matters," Stone said. He added that broadcaster could not get any clarification from the FCC on whether the movie violates the standard.

ABC, which broadcast the film uncut in 2001 and 2002, issued a statement saying it is proud to broadcast it again. The network's contract with director Steven Spielberg stipulates that the film cannot be edited.

"As in the past, this broadcast will contain appropriate and clear advisories and parental guidelines," the statement said.

In addition to Cox's WSB-TV Atlanta, stations chickening out on showing the movie include Cox's WSOC-TV Charlotte, Citadel's WOI-TV Des Moines, KCAU-TV Sioux City and KLKN-TV Lincoln, NE; Tribune's WGNO-TV New Orleans, Hearst-Argyle's WMUR-TV Manchester, NH; Pappas' KHGI Lincoln, Sinclair Broadcasting's ABC stations (which just got over their own controversy with the airing of the John Kerry documentary last month) and Scripps-Howard's stations.

If you are as dismayed by this, and your local station is pre-empting the movie, I'd suggest you contact them and let them know that you don't appreciate them playing "thought police" for you.

Posted by mhking at November 11, 2004 09:32 AM

The real problem is FCC, and Michael Powell. They're doing it because they weren't able to get assurance that they wouldn't get fined, even after getting support from that tv activist group and key individuals. While FCC does have legitimate concerns about language, I believe they went too far in issuing blanket coverage against use of profanity in any form, even where it puts things in content (such as, men fighting the war for 4 years with minimum contact with women will be unrestrained in their language use and it would be silly to pretend they didn't curse during a particularly nasty battle).

Posted by: Lola at November 11, 2004 09:59 AM

I for one will be glad when Michael Powell is gone - he hasn't exactly done a stellar job as head of FCC.

Posted by: Lola at November 11, 2004 10:00 AM

You can't have it both ways. Cussin' is cussin'. If it's innappropriate for Bono, it's inappropriate for all.

Posted by: DarkStar at November 11, 2004 10:21 AM

The difference between Bono and 'Ryan' is this: Before & during the 'Ryan' broadcast there were 'viewer discretion' warnings posted all over the place. Viewers/parents knew what the content was going to be and could tune it out if they chose. Idiots like Bono (and Janet Jackson for that matter) don't give any warning before unleashing their vulgerness and/or stupidity on the viewing public.

Posted by: Odd Brian at November 11, 2004 10:39 AM

Since when has decency become an issue?
It's because it shows our military in a good light... it's too pro-American for them.

Posted by: Joshua at November 11, 2004 08:04 PM

And I'm sure they don't appreciate your volunteering them to risk a fine and their license. Come on, man. Social conservatism is its own reward.

Posted by: gary at November 11, 2004 11:12 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?