A majority of U.S. communications regulators have voted to deny viewer complaints that ABC television stations violated indecency rules when they aired the movie “Saving Private Ryan” last November, an FCC official said Monday.
Three of the five commissioners on the U.S. Federal Communications Commission have voted to deny complaints against 159 ABC affiliates that aired the award-winning film, said the official, who asked not to be named because the vote was not completed.
The movie, which includes profanity and violence, told the story about the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II and ran on Veteran’s Day. Sixty-six ABC affiliates refused to air the movie for fear of attracting an indecency fine.
Warnings were aired throughout the broadcast about the content. The ABC network, owned by Walt Disney Co., ran the movie twice before and did not incur FCC penalties.
The FCC decision would become final once the remaining two commissioners cast their votes.
Separately, the FCC also Monday rejected 36 complaints that television stations violated decency limits by airing episodes of popular shows like “Friends” and “The Simpsons,” as well as the movie “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.”
The Parents Television Council had complained about the shows’ sexual references, like an episode of “Friends” on the NBC network where characters discussed a cake in the shape of a penis. Another complaint centered on Fox’s “The Simpsons” show where students carried signs that said: “Don’t cut off my pianissimo”.
The group also said indecency rules were violated when the main character in the Austin Powers movie had his genitals hidden by furniture and other objects.
But the FCC denied the complaints by PTC, which has been pushing regulators to crack down on broadcasters and lawmakers to raise fines, now $32,500 per incident.
“We find that none of the material referenced in PTC’s complaints rises to the level of being patently offensive under our indecency definition,” the FCC said in its order. The agency also said the material was not profane.
A representative for the organization said the FCC was only going after extreme cases.
“The FCC is only deeming everything indecent that is way over the top,” said Lara Mahaney, a spokeswoman for the PTC. ”We know of no community in America where like words like ’dick’ and ’dickhead’ would be considered decent or commonfare language.”
Those vulgarities were aired on the programs “Dawson’s Creek” on the WB Television Network, owned by Time Warner Inc. and “NYPD Blue,” on ABC.
Federal regulations limit television and radio stations from airing indecent material, such as sexually explicit discussions or profane language, except during late night hours when children are less likely to be watching or listening.
Over the last year, the FCC has been tougher in cracking down on incidents after Janet Jackson exposed her breast during the Super Bowl football game last year.
NBC is owned by General Electric Co. and Fox is owned by News Corp.