Some CBS Affils Could Drop Live News

Broadcasting & CableSome CBS Affils Could Drop Live News

CBS affiliates are telling the Federal Communications Commission that unless it changes its ruling about profanities on-air, many will have to stop doing news outside of the 10 p.m.-6 a.m. safe harbor for indecent speech.

Noncommercial stations, meanwhile, argued that the decision has caused them to significantly self-censor for the first time.

“Live newsgathering outside of the safe harbor will be a risk that many licensees can’t take,” the affiliates wrote the FCC.

That dire warning came in comments to the FCC as CBS Affiliates and major public TV stations joined the swelling chorus of boos for the commission’s decision that it may now find the F-word indecent regardless of context, and fine broadcasters and artists potentially millions of dollars for saying that and other profanities on air.

In its petition, the CBS affiliates warn that the indecency crackdown will “fundamentally alter the manner in which local broadcasters engage in newsgathering.” (Already some stations, though not necessarily CBS stations, are buying equipment to delay newscasts. And on Monday, some Phoenix stations reportedly pulled the plug on news coverage of football player Pat Tillman’s memorial service when friends let forth with some locker-room language.)

Certainly, the FCC should rethink this ruling. Even if one supports keeping profane language off the air during “family time,” it is absurd to hold broadcasters liable for stray comments made during live events.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Paul says:

    I think this is hyperbole. Most radio has a 7-11 second delay. It is hard to make the case that having such a delay on T.V. would somehow harm the public.

  2. mark says:

    Frankly, I hear more cursing watching a sporting event (i.e. player drops the f-bomb after missing a shot or some other thing like that). Or Clemens cursing at an ump because he did not get a pitch called the way he wanted (OK, no sound in that one, but most people could read his lips, and he did not tell the ump to have a blessed day).

  3. JW says:

    Or maybe people would *gasp!* feel some kind of, you know, societal pressure or something like that to keep profanities to a minimum when being interviewed. God forbid we encourage proper speech in a public forum.

    Admit it–wouldn’t some of us feel an evil kind of glee watching a press conference where the FCC has to announce it would fine Bush for that “a-hole” comment? YOu could sell that on Pay-per-view.

  4. James Joyner says:

    They wouldn’t be fining the people making the comments but rather the broadcasters. The FCC has no authority over citizens, just people it licenses.

  5. paladin says:

    In my area, CBS,both local and national, could stop broadcasting today and few would notice; those who did wouldn’t bother to either complain or comment. It’s not like CBS has something unique to offer broadcasting, and the ratings locally have been in the tank for decades. So I agree with Paul – this is just hyperbole intended to “chill” the public – but I ain’t buyin’.