Friday, May 07, 2004

Let's use some common sense
OK. CBS-affiliated TV stations are telling the FCC that its new obscenity rules will stifle live news coverage. Public stations say they've begun self-censorship that includes yanking an "Antiques Roadshow" episode in which one of the objects was the nude picture of a celebrity. Read about it in the LA Times.

Let's say I'm a little skeptical of the claims. If news directors are really running that scared that someone might yell an expletive at a breaking news event that probably doesn't need to be covered live but is because we've got the helicopter, and the live truck, etc., then they've become more corporate toadies than I expected. And the FCC has lost its gourd.

But let's assume for the moment it's true. I see benefits. Among them are the commission of journalism -- the idea that maybe it's not a bad thing to take a deep breath before you air or print something and think about it for a nanosecond. Call me hopelessly out of touch (and look, I worked in TV when the first live trucks came out and we covered anything that moved to get the logo on the streets), but I remember growing up in New York and watching the riots of the 1960s on TV -- yes, delayed coverage, no less -- and finding it no less compelling, no less informative. And darn good journalism in many cases, as I reflect on it. I don't think there's anything wrong with having a two-, five- or 10-minute delay in many cases. As I said, it's called journalism.


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