I had the TV on this morning while dressing for work. It was around 7:40 a.m. EST, and Matt Lauer was interviewing Hans Lange, an experienced base-jumper who crashed into the side of a cliff and ended up in a tree. The video was interesting, but I’d turned my attention away from the screen while Matt carried on with the interview. Then I heard something…I thought…what was that? I picked up the TiVo remote and zipped back a half-minute to listen again. Here’s what the folks on the East Coast heard (and was, as I was told later, edited from the Central and West Coast feeds):
Hans (discussing what happened immediately after landing in the tree): I was okay. I didn’t get hurt anywhere except one point and I realized in fact that moment when it happened and it was no doubt that my leg was broken, but it was also no doubt that I was okay elsewhere, you know? So it was like, I took off my equipment, I tried to get all the zippers out, and then I took off my camera, and like, okay, why don’t I make an interview with myself there? I was angry with myself, you know? It was like, Arrrgh! Ho-ly shit!
(Silence for several beats. A chuckle from Hans, along with a little chuckle from Matt, and a few nervous giggles from audience/stagehands.)
Matt:That’s Norweigan for, “Whoops, that was…”
(Many more laughs at this point as the tension is broken.)
Matt: So, you…you turned the camera… (more laughs.)
Hans: I am angry, you know? With myself…
Matt: Yeah, I think that’s the point. So you say you turned the camera on yourself…
I put the TiVo on ‘record’ and dashed off for the day. Live TV, I was told years go, is like toothpaste–once it’s out of the tube you can’t get it back in. Today that saying has no validity.
On January 19, 2003 Bono famouslydropped the f-bomb during the Golden Globe awards telecast, saying “fucking brilliant” during his speech. The Parents Television Council and “certain individuals” complained that the network and their affiliates violated broadcast decency rules. After an investigation the FCC exonerated ABC, saying in that in the context the word was used, it “does not describe or depict sexual and excretory activities and organs. The word “fucking” may be crude and offensive, but, in the context presented here, did not describe sexual or excretory organs or activities. Rather, the performer used the word “fucking” as an adjective or expletive to emphasize an exclamation.” Their ruling (file number EB-03-IH-0110) makes interesting reading, especially in light of the fact that the organization has appointed itself the “broadcast guardian” of our country’s moral values during the last eight years of the Bush administration.
My point is that this shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Technology exists that would allow a program provider to delay their audio/video feeds for a short period of time. This gives the sound guy a chance to bleep out the offending word before it can tarnish the ears of a discriminating public. These have been de rigeur for use in live broadcast events for years now. So what happened? Did they switch it off? Was the audio guy asleep? Or was it a purposeful slip designed to pique viewer interest at a time when NBC can’t seem to get viewers to care about it’s existence?
Personally, I don’t care about the slip. People are people. Our choice of language helps others to form opinions about us (true or not), and when someone is relaxed and genuine you get a more accurate picture of who they are. I consider myself an “Evangelical Christian,” but I hold no pretense that the world has to bend itself around to honor my views. I’m sure the Evangelicals will raise some fuss about this, as well as the Parents Council on Sanitization of Our Public Airwaves, but I hope the FCC doesn’t listen. It should (rightly) apply itself to more weighty matters, such as how they’re going to address their screw-ups in the ongoing digital TV transition.