Blue Language, Red Flag

C-SPAN pulled the plug on its radio broadcast of the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner Saturday (April 29), about midway through the occasionally profanity-laced attack by comedian Michelle Wolf on President Donald Trump and his staffers, some of whom were in the room.

C-SPAN said it was out of an abundance of caution, but it was more like a really overabundant abundance of overcaution.

C-SPAN would not comment on the move beyond this statement: “C-SPAN Radio left its live coverage of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner early out of an abundance of caution regarding the program’s content and its compatibility with the FCC’s indecency guidelines. C-SPAN television carried the entirety of the dinner program.”

C-SPAN radio does indeed go out over the public airwaves, in contrast to the TV channel, which is delivered by the cable operators that fund the public service network. Pulling the plug, though, hardly jibed with the network’s charter to show and tell it like it is.

For one thing, the standup routine aired after 10 p.m., when four-letter words and full frontal nudity are not prohibited on broadcast television. And there’s also a news exemption that, while not set in stone, would almost certainly have protected a broadcast of the event.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.