WRAL Raleigh Could Ease Late Night Standards

Steve Hammel, VP and general manager of WRAL Raleigh, North Carolina, said relaxing standards for late night broadcasters is among the options being weighed after the station’s high-profile Saturday Night Live bleeping Nov. 12.

“We are taking a look at what’s appropriate,” said Hammel. Amending the Capitol Broadcasting-owned NBC affiliate’s current indecency policy—which is enforced 24-hours a day—so it jibes with FCC rules that ease things up from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. is one of the options, he said.

Hammel's review of the station’s indecency policy comes after the station cut audio nine times during Dave Chappelle’s SNL appearance Saturday, raising concerns about silencing the comic’s message along with his voice.

Hammel, however, said that was not the intent. “I wouldn’t use the word ‘censorship.’ It’s policy and procedure,” he said. The station operates on a procedure that boils down to a paper list of 10 taboo words, a 10-second delay, and a real-life human with a button-ready finger.

“Our station is on a 10-second delay 24 hours a day, so a master control operator is listening to the live feed of whatever syndicated programming, network programming or newscast is on,” he said. The procedure was established following Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.

“We can silence audio, or black out video – or both,” he said, adding that WRAL’s policy reflects the North Carolina market it serves. “Every community has different standards, and as broadcasters we serve our community,” he said.