The news that’s currently more important than Arafat’s death was the pre-emption of “Saving Private Ryan” by various television stations for fear that Michael Powell’s “Decency Clan” (I made that up – Powell deserves no credit) was going to come down on them.
Spielberg’s contract with ABC regarding the film stipulates that it cannot be altered in any way, nor edited for content or language. This means none of that annoying beeping that’s found in other shows, which is why many of these stations balked at the airing this year as opposed to other years when they did show the movie. Eight of the Sinclair Broadcast Group stations and four belonging to the Belo Corporation, decided not to air it because of the FCC’s Communist Witchhunt, excuse me, crackdown on indecent material, which as you all know over and over again (though I’ll mention it here just because of the nice soul I am) was spurred on by Janet Jackson’s ½ a second boob cameo. For one Belo-owned ABC station, WFAA in Dallas, Oprah Winfrey’s show of that day was re-broadcast, and following that was the Gene Hackman movie “Hoosiers”. What makes this even more revolting is that November 11 was Veteran’s Day, a time to honor the dead and living soldiers that fought for our country. This was a time to have “Saving Private Ryan” shown all across the country, if only to give a nationwide salute to those men in various uniforms.
Meanwhile, the FCC refused to comment at any time before the broadcast, saying that doing so would give the appearance of censorship. Censorship?? There are broadcasters running scared because of the Freely Censoring Commission, and pre-empting it because they don’t want to be fined. No station can lose that kind of money. I don’t expect any station to air pornography, but it appears that the FCC is getting mighty close to tromping on something that we Americans, press, television broadcasters, and others hold even dearer than our families, girlfriends, heck, even oxygen at times. We have a right to speak, a right to make programming, or air movies without being scared that Michael Powell’s Band of Tightwad Men will bust in and take down the entire operation. There is a line to be drawn for profanity, that’s for sure. I’m surely not going to watch a program that has nothing but a man sitting in a chair, peeing himself, repeating “Blow me, f**k you, and rock the c**k” over and over. It gets boring. But I do fear for shows like “CSI” that dabble in graphic content simply because it’s the best way to get to the real skin-and-bones of crime scene investigation. What happens if shows like that come under fire because they are “simply too inappropriate for the 9 p.m. hour?” The FCC already has the 8 p.m. hour covered, and there’s no telling where they can go next.
I can’t honestly propose anything to solve this because it’s not known where this will go next. But this self-censorship can start to become dangerous. Of course, the reason for cutting the film out of the schedule was due to language, which brings up an aspect of the MPAA just as much as the FCC: You can perform whatever acts you want, have people under their bed sheets moving their ding-dongs and ho-hos around, and can engage in violence, BUT YOU CANNOT USE NAUGHTY LANGUAGE! I’m not one for censoring any of the above because that’s what makes TV fun at times, but I am against unreasonable search-and-censor acts. First it’s language, and next thing you know, it extends outward until suddenly, we’re left with an actor without his Barney the Dinosaur suit, simply because it’s found that the color purple is offensive. Before “Saving Private Ryan”, there were clear advisories on the content and language of the film. Right there for the parents to hear. That’s all that’s needed. The FCC should not be penalizing the rest of the higher-aged crowd who may want to see this film. In fact, I feel sorry for the average folks under those affiliates who didn’t get a chance to see the film right then and there, capping off an incredibly important day of the year. These conservative-leaning family associations and organizations who try to control television content with such zeal seem to forget so easily that there are other people who live in this country. The United States is not made up exclusively of children. Children grow up, after all. And they should be able to live in a time in the future where the First Amendment still stands for something, and is not ripped apart to satisfy the passionate self-interested urges of overzealous factions. I only hope this will be one of the only problems to crop up regarding the FCC, but at this point, it’s hard to be absolutely sure and from the likes of it, we’re in for a very long haul. Welcome to the 2004 United States. We should be progressing, but instead, we’re going backwards. Also, someone, anyone, save the Constitution. I think we still need it.