For the Sept. 23  premiere of Ken Burns’ The War, PBS will provide pubTV stations with two versions of the program — one bleeped and the other slightly profane, with two instances of “fuck,” one “shit” and one “asshole."
PBS feeds just one version of most programs, says spokeswoman Jan McNamara, but provides two edits when warranted. The hard feed, the default version for most stations, is usually the cleaned-up version, but for The War, the hard feed will be the unedited one.
Stations that run the unedited version before 10 p.m. run the risk of an indecency fine from the FCC, but only if someone complains to the commission. It didn’t punish ABC for the 2004 primetime broadcast of Saving Private Ryan — which included many more f-bombs than The War does — because the words weren’t used to “titillate or shock,” the commission ruled.
Because of this precedent, McNamara says, PBS is not overly concerned about fines: “We feel we’re on solid ground.” But she notes that the FCC is sometimes inconsistent, and its rulings sometimes difficult to understand. Last year the FCC fined KCSM in San Mateo for airing in primetime a portion of The Blues series peppered with profanity.
According to WETA, co-producer of the Burns series, most major-market stations will run the unedited version at its 8 p.m. feed time.
Instead of broadcasting Ken Burns’ The War later this month, KRCB in Santa Rosa, Calif., is showing The Peace Film Series, beginning Sept. 11.
The decision was based on business and on political ideals, says Program Director Stan Marvin. The subject matter, he says, appeals to KRCB’s many left-leaning viewers. The station serves San Francisco and the North Bay area, including Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties. “[This programming] is not on the edge out here,” he says. “It just seems so obvious.”
The peace films also counterprogram the schedule of the area’s pubTV giant, KQED in San Francisco. “As a fourth station in our [market], we must remove ourselves from the pack,” Marvin says. KRCB buys only a limited slate of PBS shows, not including The War.
The seven films, most of which have never aired on pubTV, cover topics such as the U.S. response to 9/11, tax resistance, wartime propaganda and Israeli-Palestinian relations [schedule on KRCB website]. Marvin says KRCB is thinking about syndicating the package nationally.
Web page posted Sept. 12, 2007
Copyright 2007 by Current Publishing Committee