ABC’s uncut broadcast of the Oscar-winning film “Saving Private Ryan” last week marked a new beachhead in affiliate concern over program content. But while networks and studios might be wary of a new, more conservative climate, they minimized any potential changes in how they operate.
A CBS source said, “The network is being more careful and on guard for any gratuitous sex or violence, but it’s not changing the way they program the network. The program practices department continues to be vigilant in maintaining the network’s standards.”
And while the fact that “Private Ryan” aired to little controversy twice before could reflect a more restrictive attitude, networks hadn’t started to re-examine other movies that have already aired. “No, we’re really not going into the libraries and re-evaluating stuff,” an NBC spokesman said.
Studio executives were tight-lipped about how increased concerns among affiliates about potential complaints to the FCC would affect the value of theatrical movies to broadcasters.
Most of the movies that appeared on the networks during the 2003-04 season were fairly family-friendly. Top-rated films included: “Cast Away,” which aired on ABC, “Shrek” (NBC), “What Women Want” (CBS) and “Miss Congeniality” (CBS).
None of the executives would comment on whether edgier films such as “There’s Something About Mary” (Fox), “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” (Fox) or “Swordfish” (CBS) would have to be re-evaluated in terms of their suitability for broadcast.
“I don’t think it’s going to have any effect on our business,” said one studio executive. “Nothing’s going to change.”