Forget those local TV news undercover reports for sweeps, CBS affiliate WOIO Cleveland anchor Sharon Reed went uncovered-as in nude--for a first-person story on participating in the performance art of photographer Spencer Tunick.
The story, complete with naked bums and breasts according to News Director Steve Doerr, was scheduled to air Monday night at 11, without any pixillating or blurring.
A sweeps stunt? Sure concede Doerr and Reed without apology. We're in a competitive business said both, and besides added Reed, " I want as many people to see the piece as possible."
But they also say it is more than that. "When we saw ABC stations who felt they were unable to run Saving Private Ryan for fear of an FCC fine, that steeled our resolve [not to blurr or pixilate]," said Doerr. "We are not going to be pushed around. We have a supportive parent in Raycom and we're going for it."
Doerr says he ran the story by the station's legal department and that the broadcast should be fine since it is within the FCC's 10 p.m.-6 p.m. safe harbor for indecency, though he adds the story is tastefully done and without any full frontals.
Artist Spencer Tunick went on WOIO last summer to explain the "installation" of thousands of naked bodies and seek volunteers for the photo shoot, comprising three shots, one with men and women, one with all women, and one with all men. The shots are masses of humanity that are not easy to identify as naked bodies until you start looking closely, says Doerr (for examples, see spencertunick.com)
Station GM Bill Applegate and Doerr decided after Tunick's on-air pitch that they wanted someone in the station to participate. Doerr asked Reed, anchor of the 4 and 10 p.m. news, plus an entertainment report at 11 p.m. She agreed. Nervous, at first, she says, but afterward feeling that "a weight had been lifted."
The first-person account of Reed's participation was shot back in the summer, but the station was planning to wait until the early fall, when the artist was to release the photo with Reed in it (all women). That timetable got pushed back by artist Spencer Tunick, but the station didn't want to let the sweeps pass without running the story. "If we are going to do a story that is potentially combustible," said Doerr, "we are going to put it on TV when it has to count."
Reed says the piece was meant to count for at least three things: 1) a shot back at the post-Janet Jackson climate of repression; 2) a first-person story of her experience, 3) and a story about the artist and his art.
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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.