February 13, 2004 12:00am
Super Fuss Over Super Bowl Show
Source: Free Speech X-press
by: Kat Sunlove
(EVERYWHERE, USA) -- The dominant censorship news of the day is the huge clamor over the Super Bowl half-time show. The controversy is based on a legitimate gripe, as noted by Free Speech Coalition Executive Director Kat Sunlove in last week's press release -- along with many other commentators -- which is that the Super Bowl broadcast is supposed to be G-rated family fare. Parents who wish to protect their children from MTV-style imagery were caught unawares.
That said, it is nonetheless alarming how the hounds of censorship have been set loose over the issue. In two different hearings on Capitol Hill, lawmakers excoriated Mel Karmazin, president of Viacom Inc., which owns CBS. Members of the House Telecommunications Committee spent more than two hours grilling Karmazin, who again apologized for the show. "You knew what you were doing," said Rep. Heather Wilson, (R-NM) her voice cracking. "You knew that shock and indecency creates a buzz that moves market share and lines your pockets."
Karmazin insisted that CBS and MTV did not know about plans to rip off Jackson's top, nor the crotch-grabbing dance steps that were also included in the halftime show. In the meantime, network censors are editing TV shows in a clear departure from their practice of the last few years, when all the networks took halting steps to match cable networks in pushing edgier, more-explicit programming. CBS has deleted a brief scene showing a fleeing man's naked backside from "Without a Trace." the network also has forced a trim from a coming episode of the missing-persons drama, this time a depiction of a couple having sex standing up.
Edits also are affecting CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." the head producer of ER is angry with NBC for cutting a shot of an 80-year-old woman's breast from the latest episode. "While the unexpected exposure of [Janet] Jackson's breast during the Super Bowl halftime show was inappropriate and deplorable on a broadcast intended for viewers of all ages, said ER executive producer John Wells, "ER's incidental exposure of an elderly woman's breast in the context of a medical trauma is not comparable."
NBC affiliates, however, had complained to the network, saying they believed the Federal Communications Commission would fine them if they aired the split-second shot, in which the woman's shirt is ripped off so doctors can treat her. At ABC, executives said they had preliminary discussions about trimming a 15-second sex scene from "NYPD Blue" from telecasts in the Central and Mountain Time zones, where the series airs one hour earlier than on the coasts and presumably is seen by younger viewers.
Joe Roth, producer and director of the upcoming Oscar telecast said the ABC network's 5-second censor delay will be used to shield viewers from any unlikely profanity or nudity but will not interfere with any political statements winners may make. "I spoke with the nominees and just said that, when they come up, they're all under this microscope, unfortunately, because of these events a couple weeks ago," said Roth.
From Lisa De Moraes, the Washington Post, 2/6/04
And from Anthony Breznican, the Associated press, 2/10/04
And from Scott Collins and Maria Elena Fernandez, L.A. Times, 2/11/04
And from Kathleen O'Brien, the New Jersey Star Ledger, 2/12/04