In Depth

FCC Draws Fire for Emmys Bleeping

Fox’s bleeping of comments made by presenters and winners during last night’s Emmy Awards -- including Sally Field’s comment that if mother ruled there would be “no goddamn wars” -- is drawing some fire.

At least in the early reaction, criticism is mostly being directed at the Federal Communications Commission for making the bleeping necessary.

Some groups involved in the Washington fight over the FCC’s crackdown on fleeting expletives said today that Fox’s bleeps of a joke by Ray Romano and reaction to winning comments by Ms. Field and Katherine Heigl exceeded what was necessary by the FCC rules but indicated the kind of real world problems and chilling impact implicit in the agency’s decision to begin imposing fines on TV stations that carry programming with profanity.

“The FCC grounded the Flying Nun,” said Marv Johnson, legislative counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union. “This is yet another example of the FCC acting as the nation's nanny. Broadcasters are afraid to air anything that the FCC may consider indecent, even though the FCC itself can't decide what is and is not indecent.”

Mr. Johnson said it is parents who should protect their children from objectionable words,

“The FCC's inability to adequately define indecency demonstrates what President Bush said some time ago: Parents are the best ones to determine what their children hear and see on television.

“We don't need five unelected bureaucrats deciding for millions of Americans what is seen and heard on television,” he added.

Andy Schwartzman, president-CEO of the Media Access Project, which has filed friend of the court briefs in challenges to the FCC crackdown, said the bleeping “is precisely the kind of overly defensive behavior which we warned about in our brief. Not only was some of the bleeping unnecessary from a legal standpoint, but it seems that [Fox] also deleted the video images for fear of offending the lip readers among us.”

FCC chairman Kevin J. Martin who had pushed the crackdown but gotten support from other commissioners did not respond to a request for comment.

(Editor: Romanelli)

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Comments 47

Todd Hanson

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"Mr. Johnson said it is parents who should protect their children from objectionable words,"

That's all well and good, but unless you're psychic, it's a bit hard to do that after the fact - particularly on a semi-live event such as the emmys.

Cindra Ranieri

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This is yet another incredulious act that Sally Fields and Ray Romano (both are beloved by the majority) have to be bleeped.....It figures on FOX...NO MORE FOX!!!.....all inadvertantly tied to the good (really bad) 'ol boy Right Winged Administration!!

WE DO NEED A WOMAN PRESIDENT!! SALLY WAS RIGHT!!

GOD BLESS HILARY!!...YOU WILL BE THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE USA!!!

Patrick Victoria Jr

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People will complain even when hung with a new rope. The same group complained about language in songs and on the air this time because it was the Flying Nun. It was ok. It seem that it ok when done on there political views but not if done against there views. We either have it or not Lets Make the Call.

Bob Levy

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Bleeping Sally Field saying "goddam" I can deal with. Bleeping her entire comment was censorship.

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Likely as not....this was an "Italian Message"
to the Academy Awards scheduled for February.
Rap talk by Queen Elizabeth should be restricted
too! It doesn't matter who does it...this
program is either for the entire planet or for
a closed circuit pay for view audience. Either
one is fine...just what you can say when it
comes to swearing should be different.

mprince

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Why can't they graciously accept their awards and keep their opinions to themselves. Each time I hear a celeb think just because they happen to be famous they have the right to impose their views on everyone else, lets me know that I have the right to turn the channel the next time I see their face.

John

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It is Fox's choice to air what they think they should. Everyone just needs to relax and not get so uptight about a few words spoken at an awards celebration. The ACLU must not have much to do.

ROrsini

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Go Norma Rae!!! If you cannot be human what can you be but yourself? Whatever that is now a day. You can choose and pick your battles. Hence, adults can choose what they want to see/say/hear. They can also set the perimeters for their children yet alone help them understand what they cannot comprehend. "Norma Rae, Flying Nun, Gidget, whatever speak your mind, you have the mic. You have chosen you battle, go for it sister Batrell (sp) The (BLANK) with the ones who cannot except life or saying what is true and what you feel IN GENERAL. My apologies for the "BLANK". I did not want to get censored...

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It pains me that this is even an issue. Having language bleeped out...who cares? We all know what they said. Any comments that get censored end up on the news or the web anyway. So what's the big deal. Parents should censor what their children watch, it's our responsibility - that's why we have the TV-rating system.

As for anyone complaining about Fox - please. When Fox started out, everyone was complaining about their programs needing to be censored for content - Now everyone is complaining that they are censoring too much? Give me break.

And as for Hilary as the next president...Great! I love the fact that the Democrats have become the Hollywood Party. With Al Gores' Emmy win he should be the leading candidate. Keep politics out of the overly hyped, meaningless, stupid awards shows hosted by Ryan Seacrest and save it for the real news - Entertainment Tonight.

If you have an opinion, get your own website...or a reality show.
And if you don't like what I said, then [content deleted by Fox].

Bodey Quick

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I think it is all well and good, bleep away!

bulldog80000

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The ACLU is the worst organization in the world. They are for lawlessness. They are against any law that would protect us against terrorism and they want every swear word accessable on the air. It's ridiculous.

Number one actors stop your potty mouth. I have no problem with being anti-war but you can say it in a constructive way. Not that your opinion should matter any more then someone who lost a daughter or son in Iraq (yes even Cindy Sheehan).

Number two ACLU...go to China where if you say anything against the government you are killed or jailed...not bleeped...KILLED OR JAILED. I'm all for freedom of speech but the ACLU wouldn't know what rights deserved to be protected or surpressed even if it bit them in the a**.

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Sally Field I thought I knew ye! Too bad you had to lose it on national TV! Like some others have said, I don't like you - I really, really don't like you; and I was going to switch osteoporosis pills, but now I will stick with Fosamax. The thing is, we don't watch award shows to hear political diatribes, or cursing.
Your career probably is, or should be, over!

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But Sally Field's career is not over. She continues to play significant, powerful roles. And why should a celebrity be barred from speaking their minds at an awards show? They have as much right to speak their minds as anyone. The FCC is a farce, always has been and always will be. If the FCC gave a true hoot about the public, they would be stopping companies like Clear Channel and others from owning multiple radio and TV and newspaper outlets in a market. It has truly ruined AM and FM radio. No variety at all anymore. As far as FOX goes, I cannot fault them for the bleeping as wrong as I think it is. With the atmoshere caused by conservatives and the Christian Right, which is terribly wrong, they have no choice but to protect themselves and their affililates from the FCC. And as far as Hillary goes, how great it will be to have her back in the White House in January 2009.

David Greenwood

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Ira,
This is a letter I was inspired to send to the FCC because of your article:)

Dear Chairman Martin and Commissioners Copps,Adelstein,Tate, and McDowell.

Good day! Thank you in advance for your time and attention regarding this matter.

I want you to know that as a private citizen of the United States of America I am proud of the service that you do in the name of my Congress, my President, and the people en masse. I can only imagine how difficult making decisions for the best for all concerned must be. For trying your best I say Bravo! For 40 years I have been content to leave the hard decisions up to you and your predecessors and have resisted the temptation to become involved with any hegemony. Until now.

The decision for the producers of this years' Emmys to cut to another camera shot during Sally Field's acceptance speech effectively censored her proper free speech. I assume that their decision, although not directly sponsored by you, was however directly influenced by your recent actions regarding indecency. I am a fairly intelligent, patriotic American who attentively heeded Sally Field's train of thought right up until the jarring cut away. Never during her "allowed" speech did I mark any indication that there was an indecent thought or phrase to follow, even in the broadest scope of indecency.

Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that the Producers of the Emmys were made so terrified by your commission's latest stance on "indecency" that they went way, way too far in protecting the masses. Frankly it looked very much like a purely political censure as she was obviously expressing her disdain about current conditions. If you do not say something publicly about the over zealousness on the part of the producers of the Emmys then you will all be condoning political censure in the name of indecency which, to say the least, sets a rather bad precedent.

I know that you all were hand picked, for good reason, by the president but you serve the people. It is not in the people's best interest to censure intelligent discourse because it does not support the current administration. In fact, it just brings more attention to that which chafes the President in the first place. Further, even the semblance of your supporting political censure ends up lowering the overall standing of the F.C.C. in the eyes of the public in regards to your fairness and impartiality. I expect you all to be fair and strong.

Besides, how many impressionable young children do you know who want to sit there and watch a bunch of formally dressed adults get up and congratulate each other for three hours? I dare say none.

So in conclusion I am moved by conscience and conviction to address this commission and beseech you to publicly disallow any overt political censure on your behalf.

Again, Thank you for your time and service. God bless you and your families.

With a handshake in mind,

David M. Greenwood
Scottsdale, Arizona

Michael Kaplan

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@Bulldog80000

Not sure why you're so up in arms about an organization that's sole purpose is to protect and defend the bill of rights. They are neither pro "terrorism" or pro "cursing" any more than they are anti "freedom" or anti "democracy".

If you don't agree with Sally Fields' views on the world, that's one thing. If you agree that networks need to bleep anything that might be offensive to someone out there, that fine, too. But actors certainly have as much right to their opinion as authors and political professionals and the so-called pundits, who spew their opinions on TV and radio 24 hours a day.

However, it's clear you're being disingenuous when you claim you're all for free speech. Clearly, you only support speech that you agree with. Which is as anti-American an approach as you'd find in, say, China.

BB

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What I think people are missing is parents will tune out more and more if no one cares about them. Viewership will continue to disapear to other sources while encouraging a new generation of potty mouthed kids oblivious to archaic social decency for the mantra of our age "give me what I want, now".

Why are award shows a free fall for personal expression? Did everyone forget it is for advertisers...who may want parents to buy their products?

I am against censorship, but am surprised at the loss of personal responsibility and respect for the ATAS in general.

TeeVee

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Interesting that that same "goddamm" could be seen & heard on ABC (America, not AU) that next night. A child says "godammit" and you can hear it, as you hear the child being disorderly and disrespectful to his single mother, on "Super Nammy." Quite ironic, right?

If it's good for the goose, it should be good for the gander.

We Americans are WAY too uptight on what is on TV. the FCC needs to loosen up. Most countries more open about language act better about it. It isn't a free for all. I NEVER heard anyone complain that a foul word was used on CTV or BBC3. Mind you, it's not the only set of words you hear. Most words are not foul.

Maybe it's time that America gets the FCC "out of there." Remember, they work for us, NOT we work for them. Let's take back our liberty!

bulldog80000

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Michael,
The bill of rights and freedom of speech doesn't extend to terrorists. It exists for American citizens. Read it sometime you might learn a little bit about your country.
I didn't fault the opinion although I disagree with it. There's no need to have someone swearing on public over the air tv. That acutally draws attention to how someone can't elaborate on their argument so they use swear words because they at a loss for what to say.
Free speech is not absolute...people in WWI were jailed for sedition because they disagreed with our country's decision to enter the war. It's simple don't swear on the public over the air and if you do...you should be fined and bleeped not jailed. No one is jailing Sally or other Hollywood actors but the FCC has a right to uphold public content on the airwaves. That's their job...otherwise why have ratings on movies and videogames for example. Parents should have a right to protect their kids and raise them the way they see fit. That doesn't limit free speech I think it enhances it.

Mark Jeffries

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Wingnut moron Bulldog:

Please quote the portion of the Constitution and/or Bill of Rights that says that freedom of speech is not for "terrorists." And what does this have to do with Sally Field?

Did you even watch the Emmys? The program was rated TV-14-DLV, which means IT WAS NOT INTENDED FOR KIDS. What gives you religious wackos the right to dictate what I choose to watch?

And have you ever read any actual ACLU documents or are you just blindly parroting your idols Loofah Felafel, Rush Vicodin and Sean Insanity?

And we know you're a sexist pig--what's your opinion of African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, Native Americans, Jews, gays and lesbians--as if we didn't already know?

sue bull

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so much for freedom of speech (anyone's). i guess you're only free to speak unless it upsets someone.

Alan

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Soooo many children have been injured by "bad words", someone must do something.

I see their little ears all wrinkled up, and pus oozing from them. Bad words are really a bad thing.

PS My 3 year old niece told the cat to "get the fuck off the TV", and we all fell out laughing.

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