Five-Minute Warning on Indecency

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TV stations are on notice to begin delaying live programs long enough to edit out any possibly indecent footage, communications lawyers said.

In the wake of the FCC’s Sept. 22 proposed $550,000 fine against CBS for airing Janet Jackson’s breast flash, the commissioners appear to be requiring that stations prepare to cut out any unwanted surprises.
In its decision, the FCC said CBS’s five-second delay-long enough to expunge cursing or other inappropriate audio-wasn’t enough of a precaution. Although the FCC decided that affiliates not owned by CBS had no chance of predicting Jackson’s antics and wouldn’t be fined this time, they can’t expect similar leniency in the future.
“We urge each licensee to take reasonable precautions in the future, such as employing such delay technology to independently prescreen the network feed to prevent the broadcast of indecent programming over its licensed station,” the FCC declared in its order.
“The FCC has clearly told stations they must use video delay as well as audio,” says First Amendment lawyer Kathleen Kirby. Producers have told her that delays of five minutes will be necessary to edit video.