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Complaint Filed Against ABC F-Word

The Parents Television Council has filed an indecency complaint against ABC at the FCC.

The group, one of the most active indecency complainers, says ABC allowed an F-word to slip by its screeners and into a broadcast of Live 8: A Worldwide Concert Event July 2.

According to PTC, during a Who performance, the line "who the f___ are you" aired unedited. The complaint was actually filed against Allbritton' s WJLA-TV Washington by Dan Isett, director of corporate and government affairs, on behalf of the PTC. (Complaints must be filed against a station, not a network.).

ABC concedes it missed the offending lyric in the East Coast feed, after catching other expletives before they made it to air, but says it edited out the lyric from the West Coast feeds.

“The program was aired on a tape delay, which should have given ABC ample time to edit all obscenities from the concert prior to broadcast,” said Tim Winter, PTC executive director. “ABC took steps to edit other profanity from the broadcast. But given the time of day that this program aired (8 p.m.), the broad family appeal of the Live 8 event, as well as the program’s PG rating, ABC should have been more diligent.”
Broadcast networks now routinely have tape delays on live concerts and awards shows to avoid just this sort of complaint, which stems from the FCC's finding that an F-word, dropped in adjectively celebration by Bono on an NBC broadcast of the Golden Globes was indecent.
Allbritton Senior VP Gerald Fritts says there is a clause in its affiliation agreement that indemnifies the station against indecency fines for network programming. The group made a point of asking for and getting the indemnity in its most recent affiliation contract renogiation, which Fritz helped negotiate, because outside ABC it has the most ABC stations--eight--of any group.

Fritz pointed out there is no indemnification against an attack on the station's license, but that he expects ABC to step up to the plate and defend its programming "to the fullest."

ABC said in a statement: "Producers successfully edited out numerus instances of inappropriate language from the Live 8 performances before they were aired on the ABC Telvision Network. Unfortunately, one inappropriate phrase sung by one performer was initially missed and made it into the East Coast network feed. It was subsequently edited out of the West Coast feed."

PTC Executive Director Tim Winter recognized ABC's ongoing efforts and praised them. He said that while he believed the FCC should find the broadcast in violation, it should also "weigh carefully the positive steps the ABC TV network has continued to take."
But if it was a case of a network trying hard but slipping slightly, why take it to the FCC? "While we genuinely appreciate the efforts that they took and continue to take,' said Winter, "we felt that this needs to be reviewed and ruled upon."
PTC's last complaint was back in February, against the "infantilism episode" of  CBS' CSI, but Winter says the group could be filing a couple more by next week.

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.