By coincidence I watched Black Hawk Down last night, followed by a Frontline episode titled A Company Of Soldiers.

The Frontline episode, incidentally, is causing some commotion over the 13 expletives the soldiers utter during the filming. For all the violence and senseless dog killing, saying "goddamn" after an unarmed citizen (who at the time is writhing in the back seat of his car) is killed by a ricochet is a big no-no.

My local PBS station ran the censored version, which was surprising considering the article says the LA affiliate was going to run it. I'm wondering if DirecTV requested a different feed or KCET flaked at the last moment.


comments

Mat

I just watched this last night. DirecTV/KQED here in San Francisco showed it with nothing bleeped out. There was a warning up front about the language, however. But the thing is, I doubt that I would have noticed it had I not read about it first. Maybe I've been desensitized by cable, but it takes more than a "fuck" to get my attention. Still, it was a pretty gutsy move by local affiliates in today's climate.

From Frontline's site:

This is a film about young men at war, often in combat, and always in danger. As one might expect, the language of these soldiers is sprinkled with expletives, especially at their moments of greatest fear and stress. As FRONTLINE edited the program, we were judicious, but came to believe that some of that language was an integral part of our journalistic mission: to give viewers a realistic portrait of our soldiers at war. We feel strongly that the language of war should not be sanitized and that there is nothing "indecent" about its use in this context.

PBS stations were given the option of airing an edited or unedited version based on their own community standards. Broadcasting the unedited version carries some risk that the FCC would entertain complaints and levy a fine. Each public television station had to decide for itself whether to take that risk.

FRONTLINE does not believe the expletives used by the soldiers violate the FCC's "indecency" rule. They are not used in a "gratuitous" manner nor are they meant to "titillate" or "pander," which are the terms the FCC uses to determine if there has been a violation. Viewers may be familiar with the recent case of ABC's broadcast of the movie "Saving Private Ryan," which contained repeated instances of strong language, used in the same context as this FRONTLINE film. It was widely reported that a majority of the FCC commissioners decided they would not support viewer complaints about the language in "Saving Private Ryan," and outgoing Chairman Michael Powell concluded that the agency should not take action against the ABC stations that aired it because the language was part of accurately portraying the story about the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II.

FRONTLINE appreciates those stations who were willing to broadcast the unedited version of the film, but recognizes the difficulty any station would have in deciding to take a risk that might result in a penalty. However, we encouraged all stations that could to stand with FRONTLINE because we believe what is at stake here is not only the particulars of this case, but the principle of editorial independence. Overreaching by the FCC is at its heart a First Amendment issue. We think that the editorial integrity of future FRONTLINEs is at risk along with many other types of programs whether art, science, history, culture, or public affairs. Editorial decisions should be free from influence by the government and should be made in accordance with the standards, practices, and mission of public television. We hope you agree.


threeze

as an aussie, i find this amazing. we have all sorts of language on telly from 8pm onwards. After 11pm, they show The Sopranos un-cut on public TV. Why is bad language such an issue for the Americans?


Stuart

I think KCET are showing the unedited version at 11.30 pm on Saturday.


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