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Fox Affiliates Screaming For ‘Osbournes’ Screeners

A number of managers at Fox stations around the country made time on their schedule today to view Osbournes: Reloaded on demand. Several opted to bump Osbournes, debuting after American Idol last night, based on a sizzle-reel they deemed too risqué for viewers. Since they say a screener of the full program was not made available, they either pushed Osbournes out of primetime, or off the air altogether, based on the promotional video.

After seeing the silhouette of a strip-teasing grandmother in the reel, along with other not-quite family-friendly fare, Fox affiliates board chairman John Tupper did not air Osbournes last night on KNDX Bismarck, part of his Prime Cities Broadcasting outfit. The duds-doffing grandmother did not make the actual episode, but Tupper said he had no way of knowing that--since he never received a screener of the final cut.

He acknowledges that, with some shows being edited close to air time, it’s difficult for the network to provide review copies for affiliates. But he says communication between network and affiliate on new programming can be better. “It’s very common for stations to not have any idea what’s coming down the network wire,” he says. “That makes it difficult for stations to make educated decisions [about what to air].”

For its part, Fox says Osbournes was “thoroughly vetted by Standards & Practices to ensure it was appropriate for broadcast during the scheduled time period. If any network affiliate feels the programming may be inappropriate for its individual market, however, it has the right to preempt the program."

Dozens of stations either scrapped Osbournes, a comedy-variety program starring former Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne and his outspoken clan, or delayed it until after prime. Some opted for news in its place. “After seeing the clips, we felt the Osbournes was not the right programming to follow family-friendly American Idol,” said WGHP Greensboro President/General Manager Karen Adams, who ran Osbournes at midnight.

Having seen the program on demand today, Tupper says he probably would bump Osbournes again unless he’s comfortable with the material on the screener. Besides putting off viewers, he says off-color programming runs the risk of irking the FCC. “It’s unclear whether the network would indemnify affiliates for indecency claims,” he says. With those fines getting larger all the time, Tupper says “there’s significantly greater risk for stations putting something like that on the air—particularly when they haven’t had the opportunity to view it first.”

Michael Malone
Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.