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Adventures In Broadcasting Expletives, Part 578

(CBS/AP)
Yesterday ushered in much talk within Mediaville about whether news outlets were broadcasting President Bush's expletive caught – unbeknownst to Bush – on an live microphone. Did outlets bleep it? Did papers include the word in full? In the wake of that discussion, Romenesko calls attention to PBS Frontline Executive Editor Louis Wiley Jr.'s recent article in Current opposing the public television network's new practice to pixelate the mouths of speakers who utter the F-word or the S-word on camera. His problem with that?
"If public broadcasting begins to pixelate lips, such scenes would become excellent fodder for Leno, Letterman, Stewart and others — and for some viewers, the sight is bound to introduce humor in scenes where that is entirely inappropriate and distracting."
And he has a few thoughts about what's behind the new rules:
It strikes me that PBS's lawyers are merely reflecting rising broadcaster fears of another F-word — the FCC. The commission has been revving up its "war on indecency" and now has a new congressional mandate that increases the maximum fine for broadcasters by a factor of 10, from $32,500 to $325,000 per utterance. What this means for public broadcasting is pretty simple: more self-censorship by producers.
We've touched on this issue beforee, but the lip-pixelating issue obviously takes it a step further. Would such requirements impede the reality of the news? Or does the rule offer a legitimate way to enforce decency on public airwaves?