Victory for Decency Crusaders? Not So Fast

The American Family Association has declared victory. Again.

This time the decency crusaders are taking credit for The WB’s decision last month to cut potentially indecent scenes from its new sexy-ed show, The Bedford Diaries.

The AFA has never been shy about trumpeting its successes, however dubious (the Desperate Housewives boycott was just adorable). But its latest campaign surely set a record for speediest results.

Or did it?

Less than a day after the AFA urged supporters to e-mail The WB and threaten to file FCC complaints, the network said that it had edited the premiere episode, citing the recent FCC rulings.

On March 24, the day after the network’s decision was reported in The New York Times, AFA chairman Donald Wildmon gloated in an e-mail to supporters: “There is no question that your personal involvement resulted in The WB’s announcing their decision to edit the most illicit scenes from the show.”

We know things move fast on the Web, but really? A day?

“We do feel like our efforts did have an impact on their decision,” says Randy Sharp, AFA’s amiable director of special projects. Sharp believes the e-mails, combined with the recent FCC rulings, did the trick.

“If you get 25,000 e-mails [27,290, to be exact] from viewers saying, 'I’m going to file an FCC complaint if you broadcast indecency,’” he says, “it doesn’t take but about two minutes to say, 'We’re going to cut some of this stuff out to make sure we’re safe.’”

Perhaps. The WB declined to comment, but series creator Tom Fontana told B&C that the network made the cuts on March 17—five days before the AFA’s call to arms.

But these are mere technicalities, as long as those AFA supporters keep clicking on the link that says, “Show your financial support.”

Wink and a Nod

The Sopranos had a glimpse of its own future in the show’s March 26 episode.

Fans of the A&E channel likely recognized the fictional host of the tabloid show (on which mob brat A.J. unwittingly dishes about “growing up Soprano”) as real-life anchor Bill Kurtis. Those with sharp eyes may have even caught the A&E bug on the TV screen.

The Sopranos often features sly TV references—Tony’s fondness for The History Channel; Uncle Junior confusing himself with Larry David while watching HBO’s own Curb Your Enthusiasm. But the A&E name check comes notably as the series heads into its long goodbye and eventual retirement in syndication on … A&E.

Last year, A&E outbid TNT for the rights to broadcast edited versions of the series (at $2.5 million an episode). An HBO spokeswoman confirms that this season started production last April, two months after the deal was announced.

“Nobody saw it until it aired,” says A&E executive VP and General Manager Bob DeBitetto. “We were thrilled.

“Long before we made the deal to acquire the syndication rights, Tony Soprano was a big fan of The History Channel,” DeBitetto says. “Now maybe it’s a little bit of a wink and a nod to the partnership we have.”

As they say in Italian, A salute!

Think Different, Speak Different

TV content, as you know, is “migrating” to “multiple platforms.” The networks are “giving viewers content where they want it, how they want it and when they want it.”

(And that content, by the way, is “organic” and “seamlessly integrated.”)

We’ve heard our share of media companies tout their new ventures using the latest industry jargon and buzzwords (See “TV Online” p. 14). These days, executives can’t stop saying the word “platform” when they talk about those shiny new digital outlets like broadband and mobile phones. (Yes, we know you don’t need to be told what it means.)

But networks hoping to migrate their content to that most coveted of platforms, iTunes, need to watch their language around the kids at Apple.

An informed source tells Flash! that Apple has put the kibosh on the term in press releases unless it appears in a quote from an executive.

“They feel the word 'platform’ in any release was something consumers wouldn’t relate to,” says our source.

An iTunes spokesperson declined to comment, saying, “We don’t usually discuss negotiations with partners on our press releases.”

You Apple kids, so contrary. Can’t say we disagree, though. Flash! put their (alleged) assumption about consumers to the test: We asked our mother-in-law.

“Are you talking about buildings or politics?”