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You Can't Do That! Censorship on TV


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#1

cutecouple

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Posted Feb 18, 2004 @ 2:14 AM

Was gobstopped when I learned of the following, courtesy of Neil Gaiman's weblog.
From a National Association of the Deaf press release:

Television Captioning Censorship Hurts Family Values

Posted October 2, 2003

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) urged President Bush to overturn a recent decision by the U.S. Department of Education to declare almost 200 television shows inappropriate for captioning by the Department’s Technology and Media Services for Individuals with Disabilities program, effective October 1, 2003. According to NAD President, Andrew J. Lange, the Department's action is government censorship and contradicts President Bush’s promotion of family values and parental accountability.

Under the current guidelines, applicants for captioning grants take into account the preferences of consumers, through grantee Consumer Advisory Boards (CABs) and other feedback mechanisms, when selecting “educational, news, or informational” programs for captioning. The recent decision deeming almost 200 television shows inappropriate for captioning apparently was based entirely on additional descriptive categories and actions of an external panel of five unnamed individuals.

Required federal rulemaking processes were completely disregarded, thus the public was not provided with the opportunity to provide written opinions, data, or arguments on the recently narrowed definition of “educational, news, or informational” programs for captioning.

From a Palm Beach Post article.:

The National Association of the Deaf says the government used to caption these shows but abruptly changed course, deciding that the shows don't fit the required definition of "educational, news or informational" programming.

"They've suddenly narrowed down the definition of those three kinds of programming without public input," says Kelby Brick, director of the NAD's law and advocacy center. "Basically, the department wants to limit captioning to puritan shows. The department wants to ensure that deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals are not exposed to any non-puritan programming. Never mind that the rest of the country is allowed to be exposed."

How imperiled the nation might be if The Simpsons and Malcolm in the Middle reached into the living rooms of the impressionable hard-of-hearing. Or, for that matter, Scooby-Doo.

The censorship raises baffling questions about who gets in and who's left out. The government has rejected Nancy Drew but is accepting Andy Hardy. Cory the Clown has won approval, but the Cisco Kid is toast. Charlie Rose and Rod Serling are worthy of captions, but Catherine Crier and Dominick Dunne aren't. Go figure.

The Department of Education is refusing to reveal the names of the panel members whose opinions determined the caption grants and also won't disclose the new guidelines. By every appearance, the government has changed its definition of what constitutes a caption-worthy program. But it's keeping the new rules secret.

The NAD have a list of supported/unsupported shows.

I'm kinda stunned. I didn't realize quite so many shows had government support for captioning. Captioning isn't just used by the deaf, but used in many situations where the spoken word is hard to hear. If the government doesn't support grants for closed captioning, will as many programs get captioned? Given the shows that do and do not get captioning support from the government, is this in fact censorship? Or should the free market bear the price of captioning programs?

Regardless, this is a chilling tale of secret government action that directly affects the media.

Edited by cutecouple, Feb 18, 2004 @ 2:25 AM.

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#2

harlequinade

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Posted Feb 18, 2004 @ 6:14 AM

I can't believe they can legally do this. Regardless of the issue that government have somehow decided that deaf people need to be "protected" from the media, exactly what is so morally reprehensible about the Rugrats spin-off? Or Cribs, aside from the rampant fame whoring?

There are a lot of cartoons on that list.

Wha about da chirrun?

Edited by harlequinade, Feb 18, 2004 @ 6:15 AM.

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#3

Fruitbat

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Posted Feb 18, 2004 @ 12:08 PM

Hell, my hearing is perfect and I still need CC because the house is so frigging noisy. Where do they get off deciding that some shows aren't appropriate? Gah.

On a different note, I was watching Rain Man on A&E with a dear friend (she'd never seen it before), and she loved it. I loved it. Right up to the point where Cruise and Hoffman are crammed in the phone booth, and Cruise turns to Hoffman in disgust and says...

"Did you pass, Ray? Ray, did you pass?"

The word is fart, dammit. Say it, censors. Phaaaart.
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#4

Schwartzvald

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Posted Feb 18, 2004 @ 12:33 PM

The word is fart, dammit. Say it, censors. Phaaaart.


Kind of makes you long for "All In the Family" reruns. Ah, those were the days...
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#5

trainman

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Posted Feb 18, 2004 @ 4:34 PM

Hi. I'm a closed-captioner by profession, so I know a little bit about this...

First of all, no show that's currently being closed-captioned is going to lose its captions. There are FCC regulations in effect that prohibit such "backsliding."

My personal view is that these days, captioning is such a ridiculously small percentage of the total cost of producing a television program that there's really no need for the government to be involved at all. (It was different back in the "olden days" when it was much more expensive, but there's so much competition in the captioning business that it has drastically driven prices downward.) All it does is lead to panic, hysteria, and accusations of censorship, like the articles linked above when the Department of Education decides to change its mind about which shows are eligible for captioning grants. That Palm Beach Post article is especially idiotic...for example, if the writer had taken a second or two to, you know, check his own newspaper's TV listings, he might discover that "The Simpsons" and "Malcolm in the Middle" are closed-captioned, and Fox has somehow been managing to pay for the captioning for both those shows without getting money from the Department of Education all these years.

It's been at least a couple of years since I captioned something that was paid for by the Department of Education. (It was "Power Rangers," back when it was on Fox...these days, the captions are entirely paid for by ABC.)
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#6

Ernos

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Posted Feb 18, 2004 @ 5:01 PM

captioning is such a ridiculously small percentage of the total cost of producing a television program that there's really no need for the government to be involved at all.

I had started to post a comment/question about that aspect, but deleted it because I didn't know what I was talking about. Speaking from the depths of my ignorance of the business, I was gonna post that I think captioning should be done by the production team on a show, as part of the production process, rather than by some sort of government agency. So thanks for posting about that, trainman.

(So bascially, the Department of Education is only involved in this whole thing to, sort of, give an incentive to make educational or informational programming? If captioning is, after all, inexpensive, I'd guess a grant is not much of an incentive, and therefore not something to make a huge fuss about when you lose it. But maybe some shows are hoping to save money on captioning so they can afford better writers. Or better drugs.)
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#7

SomeGuy29

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Posted Feb 19, 2004 @ 12:43 PM

Last week while I was watching Angel I heard a character say "You're still a dick" or something like that. Then last night I heard the word "dickwad" used. The closed captioning didn't include the word. When did it become ok to say this on network tv? It's funny, I remember the first time I heard "ass" used in a sitcom and I was shocked. Shocked I tell you! Now "ass" is so common it doesn't even register in my brain that it was said. I guess "dick" is the new "ass", or it will be in a few years anyway. I wonder what the WB's policy is on this and if it's more lenient than the bigger networks.

Let's see. I've said ass doesn't register in my brain and that dick is the new ass. Those are two things I never thought I'd say.

Edited because my dickwad dumbass self doesn't know how to spell.

Edited by SomeGuy29, Feb 19, 2004 @ 12:45 PM.

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#8

steering fish

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Posted Feb 19, 2004 @ 5:04 PM

I've heard people say "you're a dick," but I've never heard anyone use the word "dick" to mean "penis." I wonder if that's allowed too.
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#9

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Posted Feb 20, 2004 @ 9:36 AM

As I understand it, you can get away with calling someone a 'dick' or a 'pussy' but you can't use either word in reference to a body part. At least, that's how Bababooey explained to a guest in the green room on Howard Stern's E! show once.
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#10

Ernos

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Posted Feb 20, 2004 @ 10:21 AM

That sort of makes sense; didn't the FCC say that when Bono said "fuck" it was okay because it wasn't actually a reference to copulation, but more of an emphatic interjection, or something?

Which is kinda dumb, because regardless of context, a kid will hear a word and ask, "Mommy, what does fuck mean?" Or dick, or pussy, or whatever. (Actually, I don't think I've heard "pussy" on network television yet.)
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#11

geebs_criminy

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Posted Feb 20, 2004 @ 4:58 PM

Actually, Ernos, pussy has been said on network television. Several weeks ago on Letterman in fact. It was during a "Show and Tell" segment. An audience member had a clip of a movie she was in many years back that starred the man who plays the character Big Pussy on the Sopranos. She said the name three or four times, with Dave's urging. I don't recall if Dave or Paul said it though. So, there you go.
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#12

Ernos

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Posted Feb 20, 2004 @ 5:15 PM

Well, just because I hadn't heard it doesn't mean it didn't happen, though I'm not sure that "counts," exactly, heh. If some character's name contains Pussy, it's not really the same as calling someone a pussy, I mean.

I do remember a joke Conan O'Brien told on his show a while back, about how he was with (or just ran into) the Big Pussy guy on the street, and some random fanboy recognized them both and started yelling "Conan O'Brien, Big Pussy! Conan O'Brien, Big Pussy!"

And then there was Mrs. Slocombe on "Are You Being Served?" who was always talking about her pussy, the prizes it won, the things it liked, etc. It was played for belly laughs, but since she was always referring to her pet cat, I wouldn't really "count" something like that, either.
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#13

Aurelian

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Posted Feb 20, 2004 @ 5:28 PM

Saturday Night Live has been saying pussy for a while. For a specific example, back in the early nineties when Tom Hanks was hosting, I recall the end of his opening involved Abe Lincoln calling him a pussy. So it's not a totally new thing. Of course, SNL is late night.
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#14

Bach-us

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Posted Feb 20, 2004 @ 6:08 PM

Rosie O'Donnell said "pussy" on her daytime talk show in a bit from her standup routine about her childhood pet cat, Pussy. Apparently the cat would escape and her father would walk around the neighborhood calling, in his slurred brogue, "Here, Pussy, Pussy, Pussy!" She named the cat Pussy when she was a child not knowing it was also vulgar language, and I suspect that's how every kid who saw her tell the story understood it.

Edited by Bach-us, Feb 20, 2004 @ 7:01 PM.

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#15

bmills

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Posted Feb 20, 2004 @ 8:00 PM

Did you guys catch the (almost) nude actress on Angel this week? She woke up naked (having just transformed back from being a werewolf) and just barely covered her upper naughty bits with her hands. I'm not complaining, mind you, but the changing standards can be quite a shock when they smack you in the face like that.
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#16

Melted Rubber

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Posted Feb 20, 2004 @ 8:25 PM

I don't even think it was fully covered, werewolf girl... If you really watched intently...

Not that I was.
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#17

bmills

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Posted Feb 20, 2004 @ 8:30 PM

No, I backed my tape up several times, for research purposes, of course, and nothing was revealed. Though I bet it took several takes and extremely careful timing to avoid revealing anything.
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#18

cutecouple

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Posted Feb 20, 2004 @ 8:31 PM

The news media are starting to pick up up on the closed captioning meme. Since it's 4 months old, I'm assuming that they picked it up from AnimationBlast, NeilGaiman's log - or here, most likely. From looking at the articles, few seem to have looked at how closed captioning actually works - how much it costs, who picks it up, how it's regulated beyond grant funding.
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#19

senor coconut

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Posted Feb 20, 2004 @ 9:22 PM

I'm glad that I am not the only one who just noticed "dick." I think I heard it on SVU. I was so surprised.
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#20

emace

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Posted Feb 21, 2004 @ 8:37 PM

"If some character's name contains Pussy, it's not really the same as calling someone a pussy, I mean."

MadTV did a skit where a guy was brought into court for using obscene and sexually-harassing language. He said that he had been upgraded to first class on an airplane so he sat near the cockpit. Then he ordered a cocktail. His firm was something like Hancock and Peacock. He used every form of the word "cock." It was hilarious.

"Parenthood" was on TV. There was a scene where Rick Moranis' character gave Steve Martin the thumbs up rather than the finger, after Steve inadvertently scared RM's little girl.
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#21

trainman

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Posted Feb 21, 2004 @ 11:20 PM

Speaking from the depths of my ignorance of the business, I was gonna post that I think captioning should be done by the production team on a show, as part of the production process, rather than by some sort of government agency. So thanks for posting about that, trainman.


Just as some extra added information, captioning has never been done by the government, and it's also not done by a show's actual production team. It's done by various companies that contract with the networks and/or the shows' production companies; two of the biggest and oldest captioning companies are not-for-profit (The Caption Center and the National Captioning Institute), but the rest, including the company I work for, are attempting to turn a profit. Which is hard, given the fact that prices for captioning have been steadily declining because of the competition between captioning companies, and because there aren't enough people complaining to the networks when they see bad captioning. (The government regulation only says shows have to be captioned, it doesn't say how well.)

I could go on, but it's pretty much off-topic in this thread.
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#22

squiggles

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Posted Mar 12, 2004 @ 12:26 PM

I'm a bit confused by this whole thread as in Britain, after nine o'clock you can pretty much do or say what you like on any channel. Is there no similar rule to this in America?
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#23

boomersmommy

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Posted Mar 12, 2004 @ 1:14 PM

Yipppeee! for USA network. Last night, they showed "10 Things I Hate About You" and they didn't censor the line about "how tiny his dick was." I own the movie, or actually my kid does, but I still watch it every time I notice it's on TV and they've always just had Kat say "how tiny HE is." I fell asleep, but I'm pretty sure the "squid" still hitteth the fan-eth.
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#24

TraceyBee

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Posted Mar 12, 2004 @ 1:18 PM

I'm a bit confused by this whole thread as in Britain, after nine o'clock you can pretty much do or say what you like on any channel. Is there no similar rule to this in America?

Nope. There's a "family hour" rule that's not enforced, where early prime-time programming isn't supposed to have stuff that's inappropriate for children. But even after that time, only the pay cable channels (like HBO) can get away with showing nipples, saying "fuck," and things like that. Congress is now making noises about being even stricter.
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#25

Jamoche

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Posted Mar 12, 2004 @ 1:27 PM

There's nothing like the British rule here. Before the age ratings everything that went over the air had to be acceptable for all ages. Even with the ratings, the networks don't like to push too far because someone will always complain - one parent made the news for complaining that something on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim - which runs from 11PM to 3AM, with disclaimers that it's not for kids at every break and all shows rated at least "13&up" - was unsuitable for her precious brat.
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#26

jyd76

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Posted Mar 12, 2004 @ 1:58 PM

Yeah, the Religious Right has us by the short hairs over here in the US.
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#27

JenD

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Posted Mar 14, 2004 @ 3:46 PM

Seriously, until the last month or so, I've never been embarrassed or ashamed to be an American. Now I'm thinking of fleeing to Canada (if they'll have me).

I just don't understand why we can't have a little more personal responsibility in this country. If you don't want your kids to watch a certain show, turn the damn channel, and if you find all TV to be repulsive, get rid of it. If you're worried your kids will see smut at their friend's house, then you need to have a chat with the parents. If the parents aren't home or can't regulate what the kids are watching, have the friend over to your house. Why is this so hard to understand?!

And most of these people will let their kids watch violence, but show them a nipple for a split second and they're all up in arms. I saw a little girl who couldn't be more than 7 at The Passion. You just know those are the same parents who are having fits over the sex on TV.

I was listening to a radio show a few days ago, and they were talking about this (after the bill that raises the fines to half a mil passed the house), and this guy called up and was talking about how the broadcasters have social responsibility blah blah blah. But after a little digging by the hosts, they found out that during the "wardrobe malfunction" this guy (and his friends) used TiVO to replay the incident over and over with his 4 yr. old nephew sitting right there. Anyhow, the guy had the nerve to say how it's the broadcaster’s fault that his nephew saw the boob. Are you fucking kidding me?!!! It amazes me that people actually think this way.

Why can't we just send all these people to live on an island somewhere...oh yeah the constitution blah blah blah.

Edited by JenD, Mar 14, 2004 @ 3:47 PM.

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#28

TheCustomOfLife

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Posted Mar 14, 2004 @ 3:50 PM

I'm a bit confused by this whole thread as in Britain, after nine o'clock you can pretty much do or say what you like on any channel. Is there no similar rule to this in America?


I believe, before 1981, no one ever said "bitch" on American TV. Dynasty was such a pioneer.
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#29

cathy51

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Posted Mar 14, 2004 @ 4:00 PM

I believe, before 1981, no one ever said "bitch" on American TV


Saturday Night Live did (Gilda Radner as Emily Litella).
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#30

healing fish

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Posted Mar 14, 2004 @ 4:05 PM

Isn't "ass" also a recent addition? Or have people been using it all along?
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