NBS Refutes FCC Indecency Authority


Studio 60 is pretty darn preachy, which is no surprise for an Aaron Sorkin production, but fortunately for me its my favorite sermon.

If only Sorkin could script those snappy comebacks I can never think of until it's too late, but I digress.

Monday night's episode featured an apoplectic network chief railing at the FCC. Seems his NBS Nightly News' imbedded reporter in Afghanistan was interviewing a soldier when a rocket-propelled grenade's red glare burst in the air nearby, prompting an F-word in response from the GI.

Mr. Rogers would have cussed in the same circumstance, says NBS chairman Jack Rudolph,but now the FCC, goaded by pro-family groups, is going to fine it $325,000 per offense, he opines. His programming chief, Jordan McDeere, urges him to make a federal case out of it, literally, as a First Amendment issue. "Laywer up," she says. "The First Amendment doesn't apply to broadcast TV," Rudolph adds ominously.

Avoid a war with federal regulators, the NBS lawyer argues. He also says they could single out NBS.

The lawyer also says they should fly to Washington, meet with the FCC chairman and trade PSA's for a reduced fine.

Not quite true, but the real NBS, as in NBC, could be forgiven for the hyperbole given the FCC's crackdown on profanity and indecency, which NBC, along with CBS, Fox and others, has lawyered up over to make a federal case out of (enough prepositions).

But it was left to Ed Asner as the GE-like head of NBS' parent company to deliver the goods. When Rudolph offers to resign, saying the FCC could block a planned deal to get into the Asian casino business, Asner will hve none of it. He says that he doesn't plan to pay a $73 million fine, or even a 73 cent fine.

He says he no longer acknowledges the authority of the FCC over indecency and that he will, instead, look to a federal judge for some answers.

"I have been waiting for this fight all my life," says Asner'scharacter with a feisty twinkle in his eye. It may be a tad "Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington-esque," but it was a Christmas show, so he can be forgiven for a little Christmas dreaming.

By the way (nice transition, huh?), I loved the ending of the show-within-a-show, with the out of work New Orleans musicians playing "O Holy Night," with a black-and-white photo montage of the city behind it.

It reminded me of that Paul Simon performance on SNL in the aftermath of 9/11.

By John Eggerton