NBC Won't Tape-Delay Gator Bowl

NBC has decided not to put a time delay on its coverage of the (Toyota) Gator Bowl, which kicks off Saturday, Jan. 1, at 12:30 p.m. (EST). That came despite being somewhat snakebit of late by enthusiastic winners with colorful vocabularies.

The network had been mulling whether to add the delay after it's last college football telecast--in mid-November--when Pitt quarterback Tyler Palko dropped an F-word into his post-game interview with NBC Sports sideline reporter Lewis Johnson, saying  "I'm so proud of our F-ing football team, man we were awesome."

It was just such a joyful, adjectival expletive that got NBC in trouble and helped prompt the indecency crackdown when the Federal Communications Commission reversed itself and ruled that Bono's F-word adjective "F-ing brilliant" at a Golden Globe Awards was indecent.

Palko's word choice may have been FCC-unfriendly, but his enthusiasm was understandable given that he had just thrown five touchdown passes to bring his team from behind against Notre Dame. NBC immediately apologized.

The Palko incident came just a month after NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. let fly an S-word in a post-race interview Oct. 3. That, too prompted an apology from the network, as well as a complaint from the Parent's Television Council and the decision to put a five-second delay on future NASCAR races.

PTC did not complain about the Palko incident, or encourage its members to complain, either, according to PTC Executive Director Tim Winters. But he also said that if the FCC concluded that the word had in fact slipped through, the commission ought to issue a notice of apparent liability.

Winter said he did not know whether anyone had used the PTC web-based complaint form to complain about Palko, taking the opportunity to refute suggestions that FCC complaints using the PTC online complaint form should necessarily be lumped together. Citing reports that some 99% of indecency complaints came from  PTC, he countered that the Web complaint form is available for anyone to use. In fact, he said, some Howard Stern fans had even used the PTC site to complain about an Oprah episode in which she dealt with the same sort of sexual topics that his fans felt got Stern in trouble with the FCC. NBC spokesman Mike McCarley would not comment on why the network decided to take a chance on being gator-bit by an errant expletive, but chose to play it safe and delay NASCAR for a similar slip. He also declined comment on whether the network would institute a delay for next year's regular-season college lineup, something else it was at least contemplating post-Palko.

An ABC sports spokeswoman said the network had no plans to put a delay on its Palko showcase, the New Year's Day Tostitos Fiesta Bowl between Pitt and Utah, or any of its other four other bowl games.

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.