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B'cast Programmers Defend Taste

Note from Hollywood to D.C.: Give us some help here.

Broadcast television’s top programmers defended their taste in TV shows Friday, but they also called on the Federal Communications Commission to clarify what exactly qualifies as indecent.        

“The last time I checked, we’re in the entertainment business, not politics,” ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson said Friday at an International Radio & Television Society breakfast in New York.

ABC has been the hot indecency topic in recent weeks after a racy Monday Night Football promotion with Desperate Housewives and a third of ABC affiliates preempted a Veterans Day airing of 'Saving Private Ryan.'

McPherson was mum about the MNF issue, but said the network is “amazingly proud” of 'Saving Private Ryan' and that the affiliates had to make their own decisions. Dozens decided not to air it, most saying they were programming to their fears of the FCC, not the tastes of their audiences.

It was Fox Entertainment President Gail Berman who reminded the room of hundreds of TV industry execs that ABC actually aired Saving Private Ryan several years ago without drawing any FCC fire, though that was before the FCC changed the ground rules with it Bono decision and Congress began pressuring it to step up indecency enforcement.

Berman called on the FCC to clean up its own act. “The FCC has to provide guidelines that make sense. No one is clear about what their guidelines are and you can’t live in an environment where there is so much fear,” she said. “I suggest they look internally before they start levying fines.”

The FCC recently proposed a $1.2 million fine on Fox and its affiliates over an episode of reality show Married in America. It turned out that only three individuals filed complaints and Berman says the FCC needs to reexamine its process. “I can promise you that any given episode of television on any network anywhere probably has three people upset with it.”

“Hopefully, now that the election is over, this will die down,” said NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly. “We have been self-regulating for a long time.”