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ABC mulls time delay for Oscars

Jackson-inspired change would be for one year only
/ Source: Reuters

Television network ABC is considering putting a five-second time delay on the upcoming live broadcast of the Oscars, a spokesman for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said Wednesday.

The delay, if put in place for the Feb. 29 telecast of the U.S. film industry’s top awards, would follow the controversy caused by singer Janet Jackson exposing her right breast during the halftime show of Sunday’s Super Bowl on CBS and could help shield ABC from penalties for indecent outbursts on live TV.

Even before the Jackson stunt, the Federal Communications Commission had begun cracking down on broadcasters, and a U.S. House panel called on the TV and radio industry to institute stricter standards for what is said and done on the airwaves.

But already a backlash over the possibility of network self-censorship has begun, some of it tied to a speech delivered by documentary filmmaker Michael Moore during last year’s Oscar ceremony, in which he bashed the administration of President Bush.

An ABC spokesman was not immediately available to comment.

John Pavlik, spokesman for the Motion Picture Academy, which presents the Oscars, confirmed ABC is considering using the five-second delay but added it would only be for this year’s telecast.

“It is a one-year thing. We don’t want this to be precedent setting,” Pavlik said.

Self-censorship ‘alarming’An editorial in Wednesday’s show business newspaper Daily Variety calls the clamor over self-censorship “alarming,” noting ABC mulling the Oscar delay and CBS possibly imposing a a time delay for this Sunday’s broadcast of the music industry’s Grammy Awards.

“The ramifications of this new live-TV template cannot be good,” Variety said. “(Television) should not be allowed to descend into corporate-controlled blandness over five seconds of behavior, no matter how objectionable many might consider it.”

Sports events and other live telecasts such as the Oscars or Grammys have long been used by celebrities and others seeking a broad platform for their political views. Other controversial comments have seemed to result from slips of the tongue.

At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, U.S. runners John Carlos and Tommie Smith lowered their heads and held their fists defiantly in the air while the U.S. national anthem was played to protest injustice toward black Americans.

Last week, the FCC proposed a $755,000 fine against radio broadcast company Clear Chanel Communications Inc. for airing indecent material during its “Bubba the Love Sponge” syndicated radio show.

Last year the lead singer of the Irish rock band U2, Bono, shouted an expletive after winning a Golden Globe award --another Hollywood film honor. FCC staff later found that NBC did not violate TV broadcast standards after the event.

ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is a unit of Viacom Inc. NBC is owned by General Electric Co. .

The FCC is investigating the Jackson stunt.