Not Saussure

September 16, 2006

Acceptable Nudity on the US TV?

Filed under: Bloody Yanks, usa — notsaussure @ 5:50 pm

Interesting piece in the BBC Editors’ blog about the problems they had with editing an item in a programme, also to be shown on US television, about Swaziland about the traditional Reed Ceremony (clearly NSFW in the USA, and probably risky in Saudi or Iran, too), where the costumes of the king’s prospective brides rather put Janet Jackson’s costume malfunction into perspective.

Because of the aftermath of that regrettable incident, extremely expensive in that insanely litigious country ‘where law and customs alike are based on the dreams of spinsters’ (Bertram Russell, apparently), producers apparently had to take a very detailed look at the Federal Communications Commission guidelines on indecency, particularly on learning that, in the light of the guidelines, ‘One channel reportedly re-edited a cartoon because it showed a bare bottom’.

It clear to the editor, at least, that

our piece from Swaziland could not possibly have breached the guidelines. Context is critical, the guidelines say, and our context was clear.

But not everyone in the newsroom agreed, and nor did some of partner channels in the US, who we work with very closely. So we had another think – and decided to broadcast anyway. Not to have done so would have made a nonsense of Allan’s story… which raised important issues about a country trying to modernise and hang on to its traditions at the same time.

and so far no one’s complained (give them time, though).

This has started a fine old discussion in the comments section — no Americans seem prepared to defend their country’s regulations on such matters, for some reason — which include someone wondering whether by ‘a country trying to modernise and hang on to its traditions at the same time’ they meant Swaziland or the USA, and an argument about whether breasts are, in fact, ‘sexual or excretory organs‘ within the meaning of the guidelines. The consensus seems to be that their natural use is feeding babies rather than excetion and that they are normally categorised as ‘secondary sexual characteristics’, like male beards. Which, of course, is yet another reason for the Americans’ dislike of both Fidel Castro and Osama bin Laden.

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