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PBS Feels FCC Chill On Censorship 1037

Posted by simoniker
from the watch-out-for-that-shark dept.
Shadow Wrought writes "The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting on PBS censoring one of its upcoming drama shows, Cop Shop, due to the chilling effect of the most recent FCC rulings on indecency. Star Richard Dreyfuss offered these choice words as part of a prepared statement, 'It is inescapably censorship under guidelines imposed after the fact by those who are in temporary political power, and so it should be treated as what it is -- a real-world moral and ethical battle with grimly wrongheaded, un-American types who play pick and choose when they define our freedoms of speech and religion as it fits their particular political needs.'"
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PBS Feels FCC Chill On Censorship

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  • Temporary Power? (Score:3, Informative)

    by fermion (181285) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:55PM (#9677610) Homepage Journal
    It is inescapably censorship under guidelines imposed after the fact by those who are in temporary political power

    Not if they can help it! The US presidential election, evidently, is optional []

  • Re:Here we go .... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rei (128717) on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:02PM (#9677705) Homepage
    Well, to be fair, we're only#17 [] in terms of media freedom. Of course, that's out of 139. While I'd rather we be up there with Finland, I'm just glad we're not down there anywhere from Israel (#92) to North Korea (dead last at #139).
  • by tetranz (446973) on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:04PM (#9677723)
    Why is that the BBC [] can get away with accurately reporting what the Vice President said on the Senate floor while american news sources had to keep us guessing with abbreviations?
  • very easy...

    ' replaces a letter
    Do not = don't
    is not = isn't
    we are = we're

    Not used when possessive


    except when it's a possessive name:

    John's bike
    Jill's bike
    3M's new product

    Those are the basics
  • Re:News For Nerds??? (Score:1, Informative)

    by gcaseye6677 (694805) on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:16PM (#9677910)
    It seems slashdot has been turing into angry, leftist politics for nerds nowadays.

    Sure it has. Just look at all the Flamebait and Overrated mods on all the posts that are ever so slightly conservative, or sometimes merely non-hysterical. As a case in point, this post will be modded Flamebait since I criticized the Slashdot groupthink position.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:19PM (#9677962)
    PBS is in the business of publishing facts, not images and quotes assembled out of context to support an unsupportable accusation.
  • by general_re (8883) on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:24PM (#9678046) Homepage
    Profanity and nudity were not uncommon in primetime. Frontline, POV and even NOVA would not censor the audio of interviewees.

    The difference is that those are news and documentary-type shows, whereas this is fiction, drama, acting, whatever. The FCC has always been easier on news and informational-type programming than in drama, but in any case "fuck" has never been permitted, your memory notwithstanding. This is not new, nor is it news - PBS and Dreyfuss are simply, cynically spinning this into it somehow being a personal attack on their efforts, when in fact it's the same standards that have been in place for many moons now, the same standards that existed long before "Cop Rock" or whatever this piece of shit is called.

  • by anomaly (15035) <tom,cooper3&gmail,com> on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:43PM (#9678352)
    I'm not keen on nudiy *or* violence on TV.

    As a parent I filter what my kids see.

    In addition to my proactive filtering, I think it's a good idea for the government to limit the graphic violence and sexuality sent over the air to my neighbors (or to me.)

    From a practical standpoint, while TV/Movie producers stand on a "freedom of speech" platform, their expressions have almost nothing to do with political expression, and everything to do with a mindless appeal to the base nature of man. Why should we promote that? Let's promote media that stimulates people to think, not just to be aroused from an erotic or violence standpoint. I have to give Michael Moore this much. His programming, while disagreeable to me, is really about a political statement and even though I may find it distasteful, he is well within his rights to develop his films.

    I don't even let my kids watch most kids programs - because most of them fall into one of two camps:
    1. product marketing/tie-in
    2. Bad examples of attitudes or behavior.

    My kids have lots of toys. Ads convincing them to become materialistic won't make them happier, and I'm happy to help them avoid that trap.

    I don't know about your family, but my kids think up enough ways on their own to do bad things that I don't need a constant flow of bad ideas pumped into their heads.

    I can recall an episode of Arthur where within a 1 minute period every child lied to an adult and got away with it. Why does this need to be demonstrated for my kids? Rubbish!

    As a parent, it's my job to determine what my kids can handle, and limit their consumption accordingly. Over time, as my kids develop the requisite skills for making good choices, my wife and I will give them more freedom to choose. Eventually they will need to live on their own, and it's our job to become obsolete.

    Until then, I'm quite comfortable pushing the FCC to limit nudity and violence that is available over the airwaves. As a citizen, that resource is a public trust, and my opinions about what is appropriate for that medium are just as valid as anyone else's.

    FWIW - my kids are extremely well behaved, love to read books, respect adults, and are quite happily emotionally connected with both mom and dad. {and they are smarter and better looking than everyone else's kids, too :) }

    Lack of access to most TV media has not ruined them so far, and I doubt that it will.

    Just my 0.02 (US)

  • by hal9000 (80652) on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:54PM (#9678515) Homepage
    Just to be clear [], CPB (Corporation for Public Broadcasting) gets less than 20% of its funding from state, local, and federal government combined. So yes, it is government-funded, but not as much as it is publically-funded (25%).
  • Re:Since when is (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:57PM (#9678559)
    Why should we protect your right to 'type' fuck, but you object to anyone protecting the right of a television character from 'saying' fuck?

    Speech is protected by the Constitution. Only a matter of time before the SCOTUS recognizes the right of the offended to use the off button to control what they deem to be offensive speech.
  • Re:Fictive Learning (Score:4, Informative)

    by jgardn (539054) <> on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:02PM (#9678649) Homepage Journal
    You have to understand why Cheney used the expletive. Sen. Leahy is the leak for several key intelligence findings. The intelligence committee had to disband for several months because of Leahy.

    Leahy has been relentless in his attacks. Recently, he blamed the intelligence failures on President Bush while the senate committed determined in a bipartisan manner that the failures had nothing to do with the president, and everything to do with practices at the CIA.

    Leahy has been a thorn in the administration's side because he keeps spreading false rumors and unsubstantiable claims. It is rumored that Sen. Leahy said something to Cheney before Cheney's outburst.

    If anybody is responsible for the degrading tone of politics, it is obviously Leahy. This still does not excuse Cheney's outburst.
  • Re:Here we go .... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:13PM (#9678783)
    That is actually an older article (2002). Here [] is a link to a newer report, dated 2003. Interestingly enough, the US slipped from 17th place in 2002 to 31st place, tied with Greece, in 2003...
  • Re:Fictive Learning (Score:4, Informative)

    by sammy baby (14909) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:30PM (#9679037) Journal
    Leahy has been relentless in his attacks. Recently, he blamed the intelligence failures on President Bush while the senate committed determined in a bipartisan manner that the failures had nothing to do with the president, and everything to do with practices at the CIA.

    Not precisely []. In fact, "The very structure of the investigation... necessarily pushed any discussion of the administration's responsibility for or role in the debacle back until after the November election."

    It is rumored that Sen. Leahy said something to Cheney before Cheney's outburst.

    True. According to The Washington Times [], the conversaiton went something like this:
    Cheney: "Hey, Leahy. How about you lay off accusing me of impropriety with the Halliburton contracts []?"
    Leahy: "Hey, I've got an idea. How about you stop calling me a bad Catholic []?"
    Cheney: "Go fuck yourself."

    Wow. I can certainly see how Cheney would be unable to contain his righteous anger after such an exchange.
  • Re:Here we go .... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:33PM (#9679082)
    When, by the way, did we have an America where boobs and swear words were on TV?

    Well, as shocking as this may be to you, Amerika isn't the whole damn world, and even more shocking (I hope you're sitting down for this one) :


    Are you still with us? You didn't have a heart attack upon hearing this shocking news?

    Amazingly enough, in countries where nudity is shown on television, there are fewer murders, and less violence. So, there is certainly a correlation between showing boobs on TV, and a happy populace.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:35PM (#9679099)
    'It is inescapably censorship under guidelines imposed after the fact
    by those who are in temporary political power, and so it should be treated as what it is -- a real-world moral and ethical battle with grimly wrongheaded, un-American types who play pick and choose when they define our freedoms of speech and religion as it fits their particular political needs.'

    Emphasis mine.

    If it were only as Mr. Dreyfuss states, then fix would be easy and attendent politically inflammatory overtone would be fully warrented, but unfortunatly not the case.

    Let me explain in a non-partisan statement of frustration from an FCC broadcast license holder (and if you call me a DJ, I'll subject Seattle drive time to the lost treasures of radio - Boy Band phone interviews circa 2001 and a capella in-studio "performances" for a week straight, something arguably a crime in and of itself, but I digress):

    From the FCC website [],

    The FCC is directed by five Commissioners appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for 5-year terms, except when filling an unexpired term. The President designates one of the Commissioners to serve as Chairperson.
    Only three Commissioners may be members of the same political party. None of them can have a financial interest in any Commission-related business.

    • FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell (R) (Clinton, 1997;again, as Chair, Bush, 2001)
    • Commissioner Kathleen Q. Abernathy (unspecified) (Bush, 2001)
    • Commissioner Michael J. Copps (D) (Bush, 2001)
    • Commissioner Kevin J. Martin (R?) (Bush, 2001)
    • Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein (D?)
    • (Bush, 2002)

    These 5 Commissioners are charged with protecting the public's interest of the public airways and regulating conflicts between competing uses and interests - it is unspecified with respect to what exactly any of those things may be.

    The next opportunity for appointments comes June 30, 2006, and the Commissioners are not subject to oversight - they, in their unspecified but sweeping jurisidiction are the oversight. This common unspecified theme is the bane of all broadcasters, big and small.

    If you've read this far, you undoubtedly have indentified the problem, a marked absence traditional checks and balances-style controls - so while political pressures are undoubtedly present, a given President does not have the legal authority to remove an FCC Commissioner or direct the FCC's actions.

    So, yes, it is censorship - but forget the partisan BS for the moment, this is a larger issue:

    5 more or less untouchable Commissioners able to decide what all Americans can or cannot air... not matter how well-intended, if this sounds like a raw deal to you (the public they are protecting), then write your Congressional Representative and let them know.

  • by eaolson (153849) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:38PM (#9679146)
    I'm Jewish and figured it out... might have to do with reading the Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independance, noticing that 85% of Americans are Christian, and the whole "In God We Trust" thing...

    The Federalist Papers, the DoI, and the Bible, while very important documents, do not have the force of law in this country. The Constitution, however, does. In God We Trust isn't a Christian saying, rather it was an anti-godless-Communism, McCarthy-era addition to our currency.

    Christianity is not now, nor has ever been, a requirement for citizenship in the USA.

    And I'd like to quote:

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion...

    -- Treaty of Tripoli, ratified unanimously by the US Senate, June 7, 1797 and signed by President John Adams

  • by Jeremy Erwin (2054) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:51PM (#9679332) Journal
    As far as I know, fuck and shit have never been allowed on public television. If you want to hear those words en masse, pay for HBO and watch the Sopranos.
    "Fuck" is rare to the point of extinction on PBS. "Shit" is not so rare, as implied by this transcript [] of an interview with PBS producer Rebecca Eaton.

    Usually, it's the broadcast networks who've been squeamish about "bad language," for fear of offending advertisers. PBS's sponsors have usually done so for the prestige factor-- and pulling one's sponsorship or insisting on censorship can have a tendency to backfire.

    For instance, my local public television station was quite willing to show Blackadder episodes uncut. When Comedy Central shows them, some of the coarser dialogue may get cut, which, of course, interferes with the delayed punchlines two scenes later.

    HBO is a commercial enterprise, and as such, is not immune from commercial pressure. The films HBO shows are almost invariably ones with a proven commercial record of success, while PBS, at least occasionally, shows material of some artistic but little commercial value.

    Given, also, that Dreyfuss and Black read from prepared statements, I would suggest that they planned for such an event, and had hoped to use it to gain publicity for a program that, being aired on PBS, was guaranteed a low Nielson rating.

    There's little sense in not being prepared. Perhaps these preparations were started because of rumors. BTW, PBS doesn't use Neilson ratings. The individual stations may occasionally survey their members, however.

  • Re:Free speech? (Score:3, Informative)

    by johnnyb (4816) <> on Monday July 12, 2004 @05:04PM (#9679492) Homepage
    "Honestly, yes. I believe that people should be allowed to broadcast what they want."

    The problem with this is:

    a) broadcast medium is a monopoly, not a market

    b) there is a limited amount of broadcast bandwidth

    Therefore, having some controls on broadcast media seems like a good idea to me, in order to keep a public good acting on at least some of the lines that the public wishes.
  • Re:Bullshit (Score:4, Informative)

    by k98sven (324383) on Monday July 12, 2004 @05:18PM (#9679710) Journal
    When have we NOT held that public nudity and swearing in public are a bad thing?

    No argument there.

    Especially on the broadcast airwaves? When have we EVER allowed it?

    Before 1978, when the Supreme Court found [] that the government had the right to regulate the obscene material in broadcasting.

  • by Durindana (442090) on Monday July 12, 2004 @05:47PM (#9680052)
    Certainly very few online sources censor themselves this way. See Salon, Slate, et al.

    In addition, the Washington Post's print edition printed "Fuck You" in all its un-asterisked glory. I heard it was only the third time that newspaper has done so (the other two being contained in transcripts of President Nixon's White House conversations)

    American isn't under a complete blanket of self-censorship. You simply must find responsible sources and support them - which is why I subscribe to Salon and give subscriptions as gifts.
  • Absolutely incorrect (Score:3, Informative)

    by FredFnord (635797) on Monday July 12, 2004 @06:42PM (#9680717)

    An apostrophe is used in a possessive. Always, with two exceptions. (This is current usage in the United States, as defined by the most recent version of Strunk & White. There are other opinions, but yours isn't even on the radar.)

    The first exception is irregular pronoun possessives, such as 'its', 'her', 'their', 'my', and so forth. The only one of those that is confusing is 'its', unless you find it necessary to say 'their's bike'

    Jason's bike is bigger than her bike, but my bike's tires are bigger than its entire frame. (Which is actually not a great example, because it's not 100% clear what the 'its' is referring to, but oh well.)

    The second exception is the possessive form of a plural noun that ends in s. A decent but not perfect guideline here is that if you pronounce the possessive, the word ends in apostrophe-s, whereas if you don't, it doesn't.

    If you're a normal American, you pronounce those both the same way, despite the fact that one is the possessive of dress and one is the possessive of dresses.

    So, the dress's buttons [one dress] were ripped off in a freak salami accident.

    She wanted to find the dresses' manufacturer [several dresses] but he had been deported to South America for execrable taste.

    More examples:

    My brother's [one brother] earlobes need to be waxed again.

    My brothers' [several brothers] shares of the inheritance are currently sitting in a bank in Nigeria.

    The media's terrible liberal bias was never more evident than when they all cooperated to destroy Al Gore. [Media is a plural, but since it doesn't end with an s, it gets an apostrophe-s. Same with, for example, women's, men's, etc.]

    Where do names come into it? Well, there are some weird things with plural last names (the Joneses' car? The Jones's car? The Joneses's car?) but on the whole... nowhere.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled Slashdot.


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