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"Saving Private Ryan" not indecent, FCC says

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  1. Content Restrictions

    News Media Update         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Broadcasting         March 2, 2005    

“Saving Private Ryan” not indecent, FCC says

  • ABC did not violate indecency standards in November when it aired “Saving Private Ryan”

March 2, 2005 — The Federal Communications Commission rejected complaints concerning ABC’s Veterans Day broadcast of “Saving Private Ryan,” ruling unanimously Monday that in the overall context of the film, which is set on World War II battlefields, graphic depictions of war and expletives are not indecent.

“Context remains vital to any consideration of whether profanity or sexual content constitutes legally actionable indecency, ” FCC Chairman Michael Powell said in a statement released Monday.

Powell refuted complaints about the film’s use of terms such as “bastard,” “fuck,” and “Jesus,” saying: “The horror of war … cannot be painted in airy pastels. The true colors are muddy brown and fire red and any accurate depiction … could not be told … without bringing that sense to the screen.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a war veteran, appeared in the broadcast’s introduction, telling viewers, “If we don’t remember the past we run the risk of repeating it,” and warning viewers that the broadcast was graphic, frank in nature and R-rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. His warnings were followed by 10 similar warnings during the broadcast.

Those warnings along with alerts on ABC’s Web site were a factor in the FCC’s decision. It “is the responsible broadcaster that will provide full and wide disclosure of what viewers are likely to see and hear,” Powell said in the statement. “I believe ABC and its affiliated stations made a responsible effort to do just that.”

Despite McCain’s remarks and the other previous warnings, the FCC reported that 66 of the 225 ABC affiliated stations refused to air the film “citing their uncertainty as to whether it contained indecent material,” and fearing fines.

In House debate over the recently passed “Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005,” Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called the affiliates refusal to air the movie “self-censorship.”


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