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PBS Conflicted Over Adult Language in Ken Burns’ ‘War’


— August 26, 2007

This is why we must elect a Democrat — any Democrat — to be President next year. We’re being governed by a regime heavily beholden to fundamentalist Christian interests which would, if allowed, be just as repressive as the Taliban was in Afghanistan:

[The FCC} fined KCSM, a public broadcaster operated out of San Mateo Community College, $15,000 for profanity that aired in the Martin Scorcese-produced documentary “The Blues: Godfathers and Sons.” In a 2006 order, the commission said, “The gratuitous and repeated use of this language [the word “fuck”] in a program that San Mateo aired at a time when children were expected to be in the audience is shocking.”

Scorcese replied in a letter to the FCC last year that he had “deep concern over the adverse impact that the FCC’s actions will have on the creative process generally.”

Why did the FCC pick on tiny KCSM? Because a single viewer complained about it.

“All it takes is one viewer to complain,” said Marilyn Lawrence, KCSM’s general manager. Given the $200,000 in discretionary spending the station has in its $5 million budget, Lawrence said $15,000 isn’t an insignificant amount. Although the station is appealing the fine, KCSM remains skittish about attracting the FCC’s attention again.

For a recent art history show it aired, the station instructed its producers to airbrush the nude behind of the Venus de Milo statue. While KCSM has restored the full contours of Venus’ marble behind in subsequent airings, it still precedes the program with a “Viewer Discretion Advised” warning that states, “The following program is a college-level telecourse and may contain subject matter intended for mature audiences.”

The station also still pixelates bare body parts in movies like 1967’s PG-rated “The Graduate” – even when the movie is aired as part of a film-history telecourse. The station is so scared about profanity leaks that it bleeped out a person cursing in German in an English TV program it aired.

“Now, my staff spends at least half a day a week looking for those types of things,” Lawrence said.

Details here from Joe Garofoli of the San Francisco Chronicle. (Episode one of Ken Burns’ “The War” airs on Sunday 9/23 at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. on KQED and KTEH in the Bay Area.)


This is why we must elect a Democrat — any Democrat — to be President next year. We’re being governed by a regime heavily beholden to fundamentalist Christian interests which would, if allowed, be just as repressive as the Taliban was in Afghanistan:

[The FCC} fined KCSM, a public broadcaster operated out of San Mateo Community College, $15,000 for profanity that aired in the Martin Scorcese-produced documentary “The Blues: Godfathers and Sons.” In a 2006 order, the commission said, “The gratuitous and repeated use of this language [the word “fuck”] in a program that San Mateo aired at a time when children were expected to be in the audience is shocking.”

Scorcese replied in a letter to the FCC last year that he had “deep concern over the adverse impact that the FCC’s actions will have on the creative process generally.”

Why did the FCC pick on tiny KCSM? Because a single viewer complained about it.

“All it takes is one viewer to complain,” said Marilyn Lawrence, KCSM’s general manager. Given the $200,000 in discretionary spending the station has in its $5 million budget, Lawrence said $15,000 isn’t an insignificant amount. Although the station is appealing the fine, KCSM remains skittish about attracting the FCC’s attention again.

For a recent art history show it aired, the station instructed its producers to airbrush the nude behind of the Venus de Milo statue. While KCSM has restored the full contours of Venus’ marble behind in subsequent airings, it still precedes the program with a “Viewer Discretion Advised” warning that states, “The following program is a college-level telecourse and may contain subject matter intended for mature audiences.”

The station also still pixelates bare body parts in movies like 1967’s PG-rated “The Graduate” – even when the movie is aired as part of a film-history telecourse. The station is so scared about profanity leaks that it bleeped out a person cursing in German in an English TV program it aired.

“Now, my staff spends at least half a day a week looking for those types of things,” Lawrence said.

Details here from Joe Garofoli of the San Francisco Chronicle. (Episode one of Ken Burns’ “The War” airs on Sunday 9/23 at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. on KQED and KTEH in the Bay Area.)

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