PBS To Re-Air Eyes on the Prize

PBS' Eyes on the Prize will start re-airing on PBS October 2nd.

The acclaimed 14-hour series on the civil rights struggle--PBS is re-running six hours of it--has not aired since 1993 BCC, or Before Content Crackdown.

Episode six, which won't air until Oct. 16, has a single un-bleeped, adjectival "fucking" in it, used by a civil rights activist who quickly apologizes.

According to Daphne B. Noyes, senior publicist at producing station WGBH Boston, she knows of only one station so far that has announced its intention to bleep the word, and that was because it planned a Sunday afternoon re-airing of the episode. The series airs from 9 to 11 p.m. on three successive Monday nights.

Here, from a station transcript, is the quote that has not been bleeped:

JAMES FORMAN [Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee; died 2005]:  There's only one man in this country that can stop George Wallace and ... (inaudible). We can present thousands and thousands of bodies in the streets if we want to.And we can have all of the ... (inaudible) and the moral commitment around this world. But a lot of these problems will not be solved until that ... (inaudible) place called the White House begins to shake and gets on the phone and says, "Now listen, George, we're coming down there and throwing you in jail if you don't stop that mess."It's not just the sheriff of this county or the mayor or the police commissioner or George Wallace.This problem goes to the very bottom of the United States.And you know, I said it to them and I will say it again.If we can't sit at the table, let's knock the fucking legs off, excuse me."

PBS stations have faced several content calls lately. It was fear of the FCC post Janet Jackson, says noncom network Rocky Mountain PBS, that forced it to last week to replace a show with nude drawings with one about naked orbs.

The network, which comprises KRMA Denver, KRMJ Grand Junction, and KTSC Pueblo, preempted last Monday's night's 9 p.m. airing of PBS' documentary Marie Antoinette because it contained erotic drawings and a  discussion of Louis VXI's impotence. Instead, and with a little tweak at the FCC, it aired a couple of specials from the "Naked Planet" series.

While KRMA said the Antoinette material was presented "tastefully and in a historical context, it also said that it, along with "other PBS stations," had to remove the show "for fear of being fined by the FCC." Rocky Mountain PBS was not alone. PBS said that eight of the 55 stations Nielsen monitors for it did not air the show, though added that it is quite common for stations to preempt or not run shows since they are all independent entities.

To the degree it was fear of the FCC, that comes, in part, from the commission's fining of a noncom station for airing a PBS documentary on the blues that contained rappers using the kind of muscular vocabulary that is par for the course in that genre.

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.