FCC Rejects ‘Saving Private Ryan’ Complaints

Feb 28, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Holding that context is critical to indecency decisions, the Federal Communications Commission announced Monday that it has rejected complaints alleging that the ABC TV Network’s Veterans Day broadcast of “Saving Private Ryan” last year violated agency regulations discouraging off-color broadcasts.

Concerned that the Academy Award-winning movie’s frequent use of the F-word and other profanities could expose them to agency indecency prosecutions, 66 ABC affiliates reaching 36 percent of the nation’s TV households refused to carry ABC’s Nov. 11 broadcast. But in its ruling Monday, the FCC unanimously held the use of the expletives and “other potentially offensive language” as part of soldiers’ dialogue did not violate FCC regulations. “In light of the overall context in which this material is presented, the commission determined that it was not indecent or profane,” the FCC said.

In a statement, FCC Chairman Michael Powell said the ruling confirms that program content has to be evaluated in context. “This film is a critically acclaimed artwork that tells a gritty story — one of bloody battles and supreme heroism,” Mr. Powell said. “The horrors of war and the enormous personal sacrifice it draws on cannot be painted in airy pastels.”

Also Monday, the FCC dismissed an indecency complaint by the Parents Television Council about a Nov. 13, 2003, episode of NBC’s “Will and Grace.” The episode included a reference to a penis and the suggestion that characters “dry hump.” Also dismissed was a PTC indecency complaint that cited the use of the phrase “corn-holing” — which the PTC identified as slang for anal sex — during a Nov. 16, 2003, episode of Fox’s “Arrested Development.”