I've pushed the button on the seven second delay. I've told many a creator/producer/writer what they cannot say or show on TV. I've even been called to provide testimony when the network was faced with a lawsuit. It's one of the more thankless jobs in the entertainment industry and some say I was pretty good at my job.

Alas, I can't tell you my name or where I worked as it's a very small community, plus lawyers. The mods have my proof and I'll answer anything to the best of my ability.

*edit: Looks like all the questions have been answered. I'll check back once-in-a-while and answer anything that pops up.

Comments: 116 • Responses: 46  • Date: 

alfamonke10 karma

Why is it alright to say ass and hole separate, but when it gets put together for asshole, it isn't?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch9 karma

This would be a result of the FCC's interpretation of indecent content. edit spelling

rofopp7 karma

Guessing this pretty much the answer to every question.

the_FCC_is_my_bitch5 karma

Some networks are okay with the use of "asshole" and some aren't. It depends on the time of day a show airs (which ties into Safe Harbor regulations), the intended audience, and the show's rating.

The FCC's language is pretty clear in terms of identifying indecent content: “language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities.”

The problem is the interpretation of that definition and if context comes into play. No one has clear answers, so the safe thing is to err on the side of caution.

If a show is rated TV-PG-L, then it's extremely unlikely you're going to get an "asshole." A TV-14-L show is more likely to get it, and a TV-MA-L show can certainly accommodate that sort of language.

sillycyco2 karma

I was watching an episode of Workaholics the other day, and Comedy Central censored the word "cock" but immediately after they said "dick" numerous times. Only with the mention of the word "cock" did they censor it, and they both have the exact same meaning in that context.

It felt to me like some censor just thought one was more "dirty" than the other, otherwise I cannot fathom why they did that. Is it many times up to someones personal taste as to whether one version of a term is ok and the other isn't?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch9 karma

"Cock" is one of the classic seven dirty words. You would think that words that have the same definition and context would be treated equally.

No, it's not up to personal taste. Usually, each network has a list of words in a given context that cannot be used on their air.

The fun thing is to use those words in a different context and still retain the gist of the joke. For example, making several penis references and then having a payoff with a rooster. For the record, I'm clearly not a comedy writer.

Again, Carlin said it best: "...you can prick your finger, but don't finger your prick."

kickasskmo3 karma

Wait, what are the rest of the classic seven dirty words?

ZigerianScammer8 karma

Why is violence considered acceptable and rarely censored but nudity/sex is almost always censored?

Who decided that violence was more acceptable than pleasure/the human body?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch4 karma

In general terms, I would say the biggest reason for sex/nudity being censored is the FCC's definition of obscene and indecent program content.

The Supreme Court's wording w/r/t obscenity doesn't have language that addresses depictions of violence.

sc_jm6 karma

How much "outrage" does it take to get a network in trouble?

It seems from casual reading that small but very vocal groups tend to have a disproportionate effect on getting networks in trouble with the FCC. Is it even more of a problem these days with social media providing an echo effect?

I'm thinking of the Janet Jackson/Super Bowl incident that would've been completely ignored, unseen, or forgotten if it wasn't for some self-righteous folks that then turned into a massive ordeal. Obviously, there's other cases, but that's the most famous I can think of at this time.


the_FCC_is_my_bitch4 karma

The Parents Television Council gets the most press as they have a well oiled publicity machine and a modest donation base. Alas, most of their reports on television content are puffery to support their latest argument for a'la carte cable or cartoons being inappropriate for kids.

Social media can be a factor as well, but this sort of thing usually ends up with Public Relations and usually dies before the next news cycle.

In terms of BS&P, I think it would have to be something to trigger a legitimate indecency or obscenity complaint.

sc_jm1 karma

Thanks for the response.

As someone else pointed out, in the US, we're more ok with violence and sometimes gruesome imagery on our fictional shows more so than sex and cursing so I guess my question came out of curiosity as to how much influence groups like the PTC and their ilk had in terms of setting those standards.

It would be nice if the FCC/MPAA got out of the way of creators but that's probably asking a lot.

the_FCC_is_my_bitch3 karma

There's a secret committee in Washington called the Oversight Monitoring Board made up of representatives from NAB & NCTA member networks, someone from the Catholic church, a child psychologist and various advocacy groups. This is where Mr. Bozell tries to wield influence, but to no avail.

The television & cable networks have a secret document that outlines criteria for each of the TV ratings, so that there's so level of consistency. I don't think anyone will acknowledge said document exists, but none of the advocacy groups had any input on it (which is probably why it's considered a secret).

Anyhow, this OMB group gets together every so often to evaluate complaints sent to [email protected] and debate if the complaint is actionable.

The PTC would love to get more detail on this process and uncover the mysteries behind Networks' guidelines & the TV Rating system. Alas, I think content will have migrated to the internet before anything substantial happens with their latest complaint.

gcampos3 karma

Not so secret anymore...

the_FCC_is_my_bitch1 karma

The specific members of the OMB are secret and that's what has the PTC in a twist.

adius1 karma

Alas, most of their reports on television content are puffery to support their latest argument for a'la carte cable

Maybe this is a derail and I'm missing your overall point, but do you feel like there exists a strong argument against a'la carte cable? Or do you think it's economically viable? Like a lot of people I think it would be awesome but I don't know anything about the economics behind it

the_FCC_is_my_bitch2 karma

Basically, channels like ESPN command a high carriage rate due to the type of program content they offer and the audience demo that watches their shows. The Hallmark channel has a low carriage rate because of their smaller viewership and demo. They're bundled together so that a provider can offer a wide variety of content for the consumer and the Networks can say they reach an average amount of eyeballs.

If you had an a'la carte selection, the Hallmark channel would eventually go bankrupt as the number of subscribers would drop dramatically, which means the amount of eyeballs would decrease, and the amounts they charge advertisers to run commercials wouldn't pay for the program content on their air.

The PTC wants a'la carte so they can argue against objectionable programming by having their membership unsubscribe from a channel to have a more substantial effect on revenue for said Network.

As television shifts to the internet, the idea of bundling content will become obsolete but cable/satellite providers & networks want the old revenue streams to continue.

Pvt_Wierzbowski4 karma

What is one of the most memorable things you ever had to censor?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch9 karma

Too many to mention. I've got a folder full of funny bits and scenes that were unable to be approved. One thing that sticks out was movie that had to be edited. It's not as impressive as, "find a stranger in the Alps" but when I catch it on TV - it's hard not to laugh at the editing that was done to get it on the air.

OriginalityTheSecond2 karma

Did you find that your job spilled over into your own life? As in did you find yourself cursing more or something like that?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch5 karma

Thankfully, no. I would not have lasted as long as I did had my job spilled over into the real world. I could not imagine going to the movies and passively keying in on a sex scene or language that would have to be edited.

A few of my colleagues aren't able to turn it off and it gets really annoying, really fast.

LtGuzza2 karma

Do you side with the network censor in the opening segment of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch2 karma

Oh, I just enjoy the dramatic tension.

ptanaka2 karma

Are some shows &/or productions more heavily scrutinized than others due to bias than others? Or is the censor arm pretty uniform in its delivery across the board.

the_FCC_is_my_bitch3 karma

Generally speaking, the approvals process is uniform from show to show. Some shows may have more clout to push the envelope, but that's more of a showrunner/exec argument.

TheGodlyTaco2 karma

I'm not sure if I want to hate you or love you for your job. Please explain if what you do helps viewers or just limits the content available to them.

the_FCC_is_my_bitch9 karma

I'll have to come back to this one later. The optimist in me thinks we're helping parents who may not be aware of risqué TV-14 programming, but the realist in me thinks the ad-supported television model is a dinosaur and there's little consistency in quantifying content under the various rating systems.

TotallyBitchinDude3 karma

I like you. You're not the jerkwad I was expecting. And awesome username.

the_FCC_is_my_bitch4 karma

Coming from a totally bitchin' dude, I will take the compliment.

SteelyDude2 karma

I remember as a kid watching MASH and hearing the word "ass" on TV for the first time; 30 or so years ago. Now, it's commonplace. What is the next barrier that to cross that, in 30 years' time, will be common?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch12 karma

In 30 years, I would hope that content would be tailored to your specific viewing preferences, on your preferred delivery device, at a time of your choosing, and without commercial interruption.

NorbitGorbit2 karma

Has standards become more lax or more stringent in some subtle ways most people would not notice?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch10 karma

Generally speaking, I think content standards shift depending on the flow of the political waters. For the most part, I think we're seeing content that would have been edited a few years ago, but language (especially slurs) are generally being phased out.

BurkyBig2 karma

What are your favorite current TV series'?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch4 karma

Again, too many to mention.

RalphHenderson2 karma

How are profane words substituted for non-profane words in movies aired on tv? For example if an actor yells "fruit!" instead of the F bomb and the voice sounds exactly like him/her.

the_FCC_is_my_bitch4 karma

It varies, but mostly comes down to the Director and if the talent is available to loop the audio.

phome831 karma

Kenneth Parcel?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch2 karma

No, Gaylord Felcher.

VivaLaBeaver1 karma

Have you ever missed something explicit going to air?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch2 karma

No, a lot of the job is research. You pour over several script revisions and rough cuts and spend hours debating if a shadow obscures a nipple.

FatSatyr1 karma

why did you choose to pursue censorship?

How did you get this job?

Thanks for offering a very interesting IAMA.

the_FCC_is_my_bitch1 karma

I wouldn't say I chose to pursue censorship. Looking at the business of television, it's like you're a brand ambassador. You ensure the on-air material is in compliance with the Network's guidelines and branding so that viewers won't be disturbed when tuning in.

Typically, most folks don't notice what BS&P does, save for theatrical movies or the odd interview with the production crew.

I like to think I got the job by knowing how to read script direction and being in the right place at the right time.

TheRealSilverBlade1 karma

Why is stuff like gore and violence allowed on TV during the day, but the censors lose their shit when they see boobs? Where is the logic in saying 'Violence is ok,but boobs? NOPE!"

the_FCC_is_my_bitch1 karma

Google "FCC indecency definition." Indecent content outside of the Safe Harbor can result in fines and other action by the FCC. To date, the FCC doesn't include language regarding depictions of violence.

lime_pep1 karma

In a lot of shows, they only bleep out part of curse words. eg. f****ng

Is this on purpose?

Is there some limit to how much of the word you can leave uncensored?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch1 karma

Yes, some networks will allow for "partial bleeps" others do not. Also, the day part when a show will air has some impact on the decision.

The Network's guidelines will have more detail on the amount of leeway for bleeping words. Technically, the viewer is inferring what they hear under the bleep as the "ucki" could also be "arti" even if the context doesn't make sense.

WhoAllIll1 karma


the_FCC_is_my_bitch1 karma

It's never an easy conversation, but most of the showrunners, writers, producers and creators I've dealt were pleasant and understanding.

My boss had some amusing conversations with Directors, but I can't recall any juicy details.

loondawg1 karma

Why is the word "piss" meaning pee censored? I recently heard the following example:

"I would rather be pissed off than [beep] on?"

the_FCC_is_my_bitch1 karma

Without having more context, my guess would be that it was bleeped due to the "excretory function" and it airing outside of "safe harbor."

the_FCC_is_my_bitch1 karma

Here's a great example of the Parent's Television Council at work: http://w2.parentstv.org/Main/News/Detail.aspx?docID=3072

They want FOX to take down an online clip (that's hasn't aired on television, mind you) because it's offensive and, "directly targets, and appeals to, children."

The clip in question: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLG8Xs84uZM has an age gate restriction & is part of FOX's late night ADHD comedy block.

johnnynoname121 karma

can networks like "FX" get away with more than they want to ?

In other words, I think they are technically kinda sorta "premium networks" because you do have to pay for cable to get them....but the catch is that they still have to have sponsors

So, channels like F/X can use "the F-word" (the one that refers to fornicating not the pejorative term for homosexuals) but they probably don't because of fear of losing sponsors?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch4 karma

Each network has their own guidelines for content. While there is a secret pact of specific guidelines for all the television & cable broadcasters, the interpretation of those guidelines can vary.

The rating TV-MA-L identifies program that contains coarse language, but each Network has a different approach as to what they will consider acceptable. Plus, you have to factor in when the show airs as "indecent" content is prohibited between 6 a.m. & 10 p.m.

Advertisers certainly play a role in terms of content, but most will have a pretty good understanding of the content where they spend their money.

goot4491 karma

What happened if you missed something that should've been censored in the 7 second window?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch4 karma

Yubitsume. In all seriousness, you just do your best and try not to make the same mistake again. Typically, we would have an additional person on the delay so that nothing would get missed.

Generally speaking, if something did sneak through then it's a discussion in the boss' office and could escalate from there depending on how big of a screw-up, how much of a fine was levied, how much negative press, did we lose any sponsors, etc.

goodtwinorbadtwin1 karma

did the walking dead go to far killing the kid in this season?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch3 karma

Do I need to worry about spoilers? The show is rated TV-MA and that storyline was within that rating's guideline.

Besides, it's a show about zombies. If you can't stomach a little evisceration in service of the plot, or a mercy killing because the murderer is batshitcrazy - then change the channel.

dacyforbes1 karma

Why are broadcast networks so stringent when it comes to children's programming?

In particular, a certain superhero action cartoon that originally aired a few years ago on a cable kids channel with a TV-Y7-FV rating has been airing repeats during a Saturday morning kids block on a broadcast network. The show is still rated TV-Y7-FV, but the content is heavily edited. Gunfire is dubbed over with laser sounds, punching is either removed or a white frame is inserted on contact, dialogue containing words like "kill", "die", or any reference to death is cut, and some revealing female outfits are digitally painted over.

Can you explain why there's such a huge discrepancy?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch2 karma

The easiest answer would be parents, being a vocal majority, do not want content coming into their home that could be upsetting or disturbing to their children, but you have to dig further into the Children's Television Act of 1990 & the creation of the TV Parental Guideline rating system in 1996 to fully understand the complexity of Kid Vid.

There are FCC issues dealing with commercial limitations (12 minutes of advertising per hour weekdays & 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends) and "host selling" (My Little Pony can't have a commercial for MLP branded orange juice (or MLP toys) during a MLP cartoon, or have a MLP character discuss a commercial product inside the show proper.

In terms of the Super Hero cartoon you're referencing, this is a great example of ratings inconsistency amongst broadcasters. Let's look at the definition of the rating for TV-Y7 content:

"Directed to Older Children -- This program is designed for children age 7 and above. It may be more appropriate for children who have acquired the developmental skills needed to distinguish between make-believe and reality. Themes and elements in this program may include mild fantasy or comedic violence, or may frighten children under the age of 7. Therefore, parents may wish to consider the suitability of this program for their very young children. Note: For those programs where fantasy violence may be more intense or more combative than other programs in this category, such programs will be designated TV-Y7-FV."

Now, let's try and understand the definition of "fantasy violence." Whoops! Unlike "indecent content," there is no clear definition or interpretation of "fantasy violence" so it's left to the discretion of the Network. Unlike the original Cable Network, the Broadcast Network airing repeats could lose their license if found in violation of the FCC's "KidVid" guidelines.

It's possible the original Cable Network that created the programming was in error in rating the Super Hero show TV-Y7-FV, as references to the "killing" and "death" of a character, gunfire, or punches seem to be inconsistent with "fantasy violence." That said, without a clear definition of FV it's up to the Network to define the parameters. Given that the cartoon deals with superheroes, that could be the cornerstone of their definition of FV.

The Broadcast Network's definition of FV is clearly different. It's possible they aren't taking context into consideration when vetting the programming, but it's difficult to say for sure. Regardless, they feel that lasers, the implication of fisticuffs, and euphemisms for death are within their FV parameters. I don't know what to make of the revealing female outfit as that's probably a taste issue rather than compliance with the TV rating.

So, without specific detail it seems like the Broadcast Network is edging on the conservative side since there's no clear definition of "fantasy violence" and they don't want risk being fined by the FCC from Parental complaints.

In an ideal world, there would be more consistency with the application of the TV Parental Rating system. As-is, the broadcast & cable networks can barely come to terms with the General Audience ratings and since most broadcast networks have sub-channels that deal with their KidVid requirements, consistency with the TV-Y7-FV rating doesn't seem to be a high priority compared to childhood obesity initiatives.

dacyforbes1 karma

Can you give a detailed description of how exactly the BS&P process goes down? Do you sit in an office, watch the content on a monitor and write down notes?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch1 karma

Generally speaking, BS&P will vet content during production (alas, most productions vary from show to show). Some Networks have a large staff and can review content at every phase of production. Other Networks have a skeleton crew and only vet specific script drafts or specific cuts. In rare instances, the production will be responsible for its own S&P clearance.

Treatment/Script - You'll provide general notes and feedback on several drafts before shooting. Depending on the production, you might sit in on a table read. Rehearsal/Shooting - You could provide feedback at a blocking or rehearsal or while shooting on a stage. Typically, this is more oversight than providing notes. Rough Cuts - You will screen various cuts in your office or in a screening room. You could easily review the same scene frame-by-frame or on repeat for several times as you vet the content and provide notes on a cut. Sometimes, you'll just view it in real time and provide feedback. It all depends on the type of production and how content will be addressed either during the production or in post-production. Storyboards - On some productions, you'll vet storyboards and have to envision the detail on how the sequence will be shot. Obviously, you'll have more storyboards when reviewing cartoons, but it's roughly the same process.

During all of these phases, you'll generally solicit feedback to confirm consistency amongst your peers in the department. This sort of communication is crucial in order to make well informed decisions.

By the time an episode is to deliver as final, there shouldn't be any BS&P concerns (unless a Producer forgot to address a previous note).

Internal and external politics can also come into play, but that's more of an anomaly for a Network.

big_b_3d1 karma

What kind of experience does one need in order to be an FCC censor and/or Radio/Police frequency monitor?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch1 karma

Hmm. I think you might have this topic confused with something else. I worked for a television network in the business affairs/legal/standards & practices group.

Your query sounds more like a radio communications question and that is out of my bailiwick. Sorry I couldn't be helpful.

dacyforbes1 karma

Does a show's timeslot on a Broadcast Network factor into S&P decisions? Can a 10pm or 9pm show push the boundary more than a 8pm show? Or is it all subject to the same criteria so the Network can have scheduling flexibility?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch1 karma

In general terms, a program that airs during the "Safe Harbor" period of 10pm to 6am isn't subject to the FCC's indecency restrictions. A show airing at 8pm or 9pm won't have the same leeway with edgy content since children are more likely to be in the viewing audience.

hydro-philic1 karma

Do you use a tablet or phone while watching TV shows or movies at home?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch3 karma

I rarely watch anything on my phone. I prefer to watch movies on my big screen TV (i'm a sucker for the home theater experience). I'll watch cinematic television on the big screen as well, but I'll use a computer or tablet for serials or comedies.

Ambar_of_Kotu1 karma

How many South Park scenes have you shot down? I'm assuming they need to make about 100 calls to your department per week.

Ambar_of_Kotu2 karma

This is what I was referencing. Any personal experience with that show?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch6 karma

Alas, I can't confirm or deny any experience reviewing SP.

HughRistik1 karma

Are you the one responsible for letting Suits say the word "shit" at least 5 times per episode? Because they love using that words as much as possible.

the_FCC_is_my_bitch2 karma

Again, I can't confirm or deny working on a particular show or at a particular network.

sesmith42051 karma

Conan had a segment concerning Standards and Practices. Have you watched it? (If not - watch it! Mister Falcon...)

My main question is how do you personally view the restrictions on television shows - is it too relaxed or too uptight? And is there any changes you would make?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch3 karma

Yes, I saw that clip a few years ago. I always wondered if that guy was the real deal or not. It's so rare to see someone that actually works in standards.

To be honest, I'm ambivalent about the whole process. Each network has their own brand and the shows typically fall inside of that branding. I don't think there are harsh restrictions for showrunners since they're part of the ad-supported television model.

On a personal level, I prefer my content uncensored and would rather wait to consume it commercial free. It's hard to get that content quickly, but I can usually make do.

I would make sweeping changes on so many levels, but I'm more of a disruptor. I mean it's silly to think we're using a ratings system that was created in 1996 and hasn't been updated since.

the200sx1 karma

Anything you've let slide because you personally didn't find it offensive?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch2 karma

No, I was a professional and enjoyed my paychecks. Of course, I was known for being easy to work with and most writers got what they wanted in the end.

diamond_cutta1 karma

Do you feel isolated in one of those tiny rooms with just a tv and the best noise canceling headphones? Had the privlage to work at a major broadcast company as well and see these rooms built and in use.

the_FCC_is_my_bitch1 karma

Not really, I was too busy concentrating on what I was viewing.

diamond_cutta1 karma

Do you feel the move to a more automated work flow will eventually lead to the dismiss of your position? For example and automated system that will pick up and bleep out curse words within the 7 second delay. Do you see this as possible?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch1 karma

I don't think this would be feasible due to context. That's the crux of evaluating content and I don't think there's a sophisticated enough A.I. that could handle such a task.

EtienneMotorway1 karma

When it comes to depictions of sexuality, have you experienced a show facing a double standard in what they were allowed to show with an opposite or same sex couple doing? If so, is that something that has changed over time, as lesbian and gay characters have become more visible on TV?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch2 karma

No, our guidelines were the same for same sex & opposite sex in terms of depictions of intercourse. That said, I don't it actually came up for discussion until the last five or so years, but my timing could be off.

meganlimbo1 karma

I think I'm late to the party here, but what kind of education do you have? How do you get in to this line of work? Sounds like a very interesting job!

the_FCC_is_my_bitch1 karma

It's an interesting job but it's not a career unless you accept the banality of it all. My major was mass communications, but nothing really prepared me for the job save for writing and a little logic. I happened to be at the right place at the right time and just fit in. I don't know how you would get started now, save for becoming an intern.

axpmaluga1 karma


the_FCC_is_my_bitch1 karma

Wow. No, I would get a screener from the studio. What you're talking about seems like uncut dailies or something and that's something I would not have been privy to when evaluating a film for broadcast.

Dabaer771 karma

I know you will never see this, but just incase you do

Is the deal with saying dammit or god dammit, the same as the asshole thing?

the_FCC_is_my_bitch1 karma

Not entirely. "Asshole" is questionable due to the FCC's definition of indecency (excretory organs).

Religious profanity is more of a network decision based on audience research and such. Some allow limited use, some don't allow it at all.