Oh, the F.C.C., protector of broadcasting decency and mortal enemy of Howard Stern you sure have done it this time. On March 11 the F.C.C. leveled a $4 million fine against nine different television shows that had violated decency standards from February 2002 to March 2005. Out of that $4 million dollars, the CBS drama “Without a Trace,” which airs on over 111 different stations, was fined a record $3.6 for its alleged depiction of teenage orgy. As the F.C.C. becomes more ruthless in its pursuit to squash indecency, it has WB censoring the first episode of its new show “The Bedford Diaries” to avoid any potential fines.
“The Bedford Diaries,” is about college students who are enrolled in a class on human sexuality. The show was created by Tom Fontana, who also happened to create the graphic HBO series “Oz,” but unlike HBO, where no restrictions on content exist , the WB would be a prime target for the continued F.C.C. crackdown. Therefore, even though the show had been given the thumbs up by the WB’s standards department, certain scenes from the show were asked to be cut by Garth Ancier, the WB’s chairman.
This concern over being fined for broadcasting the content has led the WB to offer an uncut version of “The Bedford Diaries” on its website WB.com. Yet, the decision to release an uncut version of a TV show online could potentially be a change in which networks broadcast programs. With the fear of fines from the F.C.C. increasing this could be an emerging trend among all networks as they look for ways to reach increasingly fickle viewers who don’t want to be restricted by the time and place they can watch TV. Another positive benefit for viewers is that the
As Mr. Fontana sees it, “The message here is that they'll be forced to go alternative ways of looking at shows if they want to see the real thing. It's like they're telling people that broadcast television now has much less interesting stuff than you see on the Web or cable.” Driving viewers away from the actual network with the promise of uncut and commercial free programs available on the Internet may just hurt the networks as much as it helps them evade the F.C.C.