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The TOTEM Poll: Totally Off Topic, Everything Media
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Old June 13th, 2004, 01:11 PM   #1
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Words you Can't Say on TV

Does anyone have a link or knowledge of what is allowed on network TV and what is not? I have been surprised by some of what I've heard, and then also surprised by what gets blocked... does anyone know definitively?

I know you might be uncomforable writing out bad words, so you can just spell them if that helps.... :)
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Old June 13th, 2004, 02:06 PM   #2
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Well, it is crucial that we keep vulgarity off of these boards. It may not be a big deal to anyone else, but it is to me, and one of the very few personal privileges I allow myself here is that I get to make the rulings on this sort of things.

So no, no vulgar descriptions or spellings here, it's a quality control issue. Thanks in advance.

If you have a link, go ahead and post the link. Here's one, which is George Carlin's seven words you can't say on television.
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Old June 13th, 2004, 02:06 PM   #3
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Depends on the time the program is aired. The Network it is aired on. Fox, NBC, ABC, etc. Cable has different standards then Networks. After 11pm you can get away with more. Each network has their own Standards for what can be said.

http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/obscene.html
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Old June 13th, 2004, 03:17 PM   #4
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Chris,

Thanks for the link... I had seen that, but didn't think (especially looking at the list) that is anything like a definitive legal list :). I appreciate your concerns about obscenity here, which is why I was mostly looking for links (thanks Leon - that was perfect), and joking about spelling them out.

Looks from the link (and from the recent controversy with Bono, et al.) that there is not a steadfast list. And certainly what the FCC defines as profane and what the networks will actually want to air are different....

Might anyone have a link regarding what the networks will accept as a practical matter? Thanks.

Thanks for the good work Chris.
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Old June 13th, 2004, 04:17 PM   #5
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Over here in the UK, we have something called "The Water Shed", and it starts at 9:00PM, basically you can not have any swear words before this time, although some programs before this time do have, on certain channels. I think that anything sexual cannot be shown until after 10PM.

If people wish to use swear words before the water shed it is normally 'buzzed' out.
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Old June 14th, 2004, 03:49 PM   #6
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not a list but...

I heard a story on NPR on this subject over the weekend. On This American Life they interviewed a lawyer from the FCC. It seems to depend a lot of context, the mood of the commissioners, and whether the planets are aligned.

http://www.thislife.org/

They have a link to listen to the show and links to the FCC and ACLU.
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Old June 14th, 2004, 04:18 PM   #7
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I was told (I'm scriptwriting) by a producer that on Canadian television you can say the S word but you cannot say the F word or the C word. Of course, the later you air, the more you can say and show.
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Old June 14th, 2004, 10:44 PM   #8
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I know that in radio, at least just a couple of years ago when I was working at a station, it was still the 'seven deadlies' that we couldn't say on air in any context.

They were considered "obscene"
And obscenity isn't tolerated at any time of day or night.

Now 'Indecency' (as I understand it) is more vague, and open to interpretation. That is where context comes in. That is how the FCC can fine Howard Stern for saying the same exact things that Oprah had on her show. They argue that because of the context of his show, it was indecent.

Basically, outside of the seven deadlies (which I think are even more relaxed for telelvision) it is very much open to interpretation. Not only by what time it aired, but also by the context of the show and the reason for the 'indecent' language.

In fact, to me, it's kind of scary how much of a gray area it is.
The FCC can pretty much fine whoever they want as long as they can make an argument for it.

-Luis

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Old June 14th, 2004, 11:00 PM   #9
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Keith, 15 to 20 years ago I lived in a small town in upstate NY near Lake Ontario where we couldn't get cable, so I used to watch the Canadian TV stations a lot. Some of the stuff they showed after 11:00 PM really surprised me, movies with nudity, etc. And these were regular CBC and other network affiliates from Ottawa, Kingston and other towns, broadcasting over the air. I'm not sure if they can still do this, but it was pretty progressive for its time...
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Old June 15th, 2004, 12:18 AM   #10
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I think after 11pm you can pretty well show anything up to soft core.
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Old June 21st, 2004, 02:13 PM   #11
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Give Howard Stern a call, I'm sure he can tell you everything you need to know :)
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Old June 22nd, 2004, 09:47 AM   #12
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<<<-- Originally posted by Boyd Ostroff : Keith, 15 to 20 years ago I lived in a small town in upstate NY near Lake Ontario where we couldn't get cable, so I used to watch the Canadian TV stations a lot. Some of the stuff they showed after 11:00 PM really surprised me, movies with nudity, etc. And these were regular CBC and other network affiliates from Ottawa, Kingston and other towns, broadcasting over the air. I'm not sure if they can still do this, but it was pretty progressive for its time... -->>>

We've always seemed to be a little more liberal up here. One of our major networks shows medium softcore porn films every friday night, and any sex shows on TV can show almost anything they want. I'm pretty used to hearing all Carlin's words you can't say on TV on a pretty regular basis.

For the ultimate in TV potty mouth, check out a great Canadian cartoon called Kevin Spencer that airs on The Comedy Network or possibly Comedy Central.
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