WB edits "Bedford Diaries," puts uncensored version online

TV Arts

from the new york times

WB Censors Its Own Drama for Fear of F.C.C. Fines 

Concerned about the recent decision by the Federal Communications
Commission to fine television networks for material deemed indecent,
the WB network will broadcast a new drama next week that it has
censored over the objections of the program's creator.

But first, the network will offer the uncut version of the pilot
episode on its Web site, starting today — a further example of the new
strategies network television may be pursuing, both to escape
government-imposed restrictions and to find alternative ways of
reaching viewers. It is the first time a network has offered on
another outlet an uncut version of a program it has been forced to

The show, "The Bedford Diaries," was created by Tom Fontana, whose
long résumé includes award-winning shows like "St. Elsewhere" and
"Homicide" for network television and the far more graphic prison
drama "Oz" for HBO, a pay-cable channel with no content restrictions.

The pilot episode of "The Bedford Diaries," which concerns a group of
college students attending a class on human sexuality, had already
been accepted by WB's standards department. After the F.C.C. decision
last week to issue millions of dollars in fines against broadcast
stations, the network's chairman, Garth Ancier, contacted Mr. Fontana
and asked him to edit a number of specific scenes out of the show,
including one that depicted two girls in a bar kissing on a dare and
another of a girl unbuttoning her jeans.

"I said no," Mr. Fontana said in an interview Wednesday. "I told him I
found the ruling incomprehensible. He said the censor would do the

The decision, several network executives said yesterday, could
represent a further step in the spread of alternative means for
television programs to reach viewers, including iPods and computers.
It could also increase the risk that network television will be seen
as passé by some of its audience, especially younger viewers.

"The message here is that they'll be forced to go alternative ways of
looking at shows if they want to see the real thing," Mr. Fontana
said. "It's like they're telling people that broadcast television now
has much less interesting stuff than you see on the Web or cable."

WB executives acknowledged that the decision to censor Mr. Fontana's
new show was entirely driven by concerns raised by the fines the
F.C.C. levied last week against television stations for broadcasting
programs it called indecent. The commission ordered by far the biggest
fine, $3.6 million, for 111 stations affiliated with or owned by CBS,
for an episode of the crime drama "Without a Trace" that contained a
scene depicting teenagers engaged in sex. CBS protested the fine and
said the show was not indecent.

Mr. Fontana praised Mr. Ancier for being "a thorough professional and
complete gentleman" about the issue. He said he had no problem at all
with WB's decision, conceding that the network had to do what it
believed was necessary to avoid being fined.

But he added, "In more than 20 years in the business, this is the most
chilling thing I've ever faced."

In a statement, Mr. Ancier said: "The WB takes its responsibility as a
broadcast network very seriously and we have always been mindful of
the F.C.C.'s indecency rules. While we believe that the previous uncut
version of 'The Bedford Diaries' is in keeping with those rules, out
of an abundance of caution, we decided to make some additional minor
changes to the premiere episode of the series, which is set to debut
next Wednesday, March 28. We also decided to make the original version
available on the Internet at TheWB.com, which allows those interested
in seeing the producer's creative vision to do so while at the same
time recognizing the special rules that apply to the broadcast

In a telephone interview, Mr. Ancier said the network respected the
effort Mr. Fontana had made to produce a show that was both creatively
interesting and socially responsible. "Our feeling was that Tom had
worked very hard with our standards people and they came up a final
edit of the show which we all had found acceptable," he said. 

The uncut version of the "Bedford Diaries" pilot will be available on
the WB site beginning at 3 p.m. Eastern time today, a network
spokesman said. The decision to offer it on the Web was less
complicated for WB because it has twice before offered previews of new
series on the Internet — though in both those cases the network
versions of the shows were identical to the Web versions, not

Those previews were offered for promotional value, and the network
considered them highly successful in generating initial interest in
the two series, "Jack and Bobby" and "Supernatural."

Promotional value is all the network can realize from streaming the
uncut episode of 'The Bedford Diaries" on its Web site, because it
will run without commercials. The Hollywood creative guilds do not
permit a commercial use of the program online.

Network executives said yesterday that the industry was still working
through what impact the threat of heavy fines from the F.C.C. will
have on the content of coming shows. One senior network program
executive said it would now be unlikely that a show with the subject
matter of "The Bedford Diaries" would be ordered by a network.

Asked whether this might lead to the diversion of more network
programming to other distribution outlets, Mr. Ancier said: "It's a
really good question. I just don't know."
Seriously, girls kissing and a girl taking off her jeans (or not even
taking them off, just unbuttoning them) is enough to get the network
all huffy?  Come on.  That said, I have never understood why this
series was ordered in the first place -- the promos make it look like a
bad excuse for a lot of low-key sex talk and nothing else.  The WB can
do better...

No, it's the threat of having a hefty fine imposed by the FCC.  CBS is 
big enough to afford to pay such fines.  WB is a lot smaller and is 
about to go out of business anyway, so they don't need another headache 
from the FCC right now.  I don't know if The CW will agree to 
"grandfather in" any fines that the FCC tries to make WB pay.

The Janet Jackson fiasco was a watershed.  The FCC has been cracking 
down on indecency ever since.
My point was that girls kissing is hardly indecent, considering the
fact that The WB was airing gals kissing on Buffy for years and I never
once heard anyone (not even the nutty parents council) complaining.
And I cannot see the FCC fining a network for airing girls kissing
because it would start an argument about discrimination against
homosexuality on broadcast television.
Oh, they complained. They hated "Buffy" with a passion. Girls kissing, 
witches, paganism, the occult. It was a veritable smorgasbord of 
Christian outrage.
All the more reason for Elizabeth Kubler ANIM8Rfsk to move past the
denial phase and Accept the existence of s6 and 7 of Buffy and then
move onto the Bargaining phase by buying the DVD sets on sale at Best
Buy.  Do it -- just to piss the Jeezoids off.

  -- Rob
I agree that it shouldn't be an issue. As I recall from the pilot
(watched it last year) there wasn't anything that is unusual for TV.
As it is the WB can't afford to take any chances since, as Steven
points out, the WB network doesn't have deep pockets. So those fines
would hurt quite a bit, and the network is going out of business
anyway since the CW will be a new network (though it may employ many
of the same people.) 

I suspect that if the WB had been hit by the same fines that CBS got
hit with then some shows would have been dropped because they wouldn't
have the funds to keep the shows going. I know that some of the WB
shows have been cut back because of money issues, and that shows on
NBC were affected because of money issues at that network.
The PTC listed season 6 Buffy as Number 1 in its ten worst programs for sex
and violence that year.

"We're deceptive people. We promote sex and violence and the occult.
Frankly, we're just not good seeds. 
(Drew Goddard, commenting on that ranking)
in article [email protected], William George

1) There was a Buffy season 6??
B) And here I thought it was just the awful production values that were
Ah, well, that just goes to show how little I pay attention to the PTC.

Sounds like riveting television!  And yes, it does put things into
context a little, I suppose.  Still, I find it sad that The WB is
worried about airing something (the girls kissing) that it has aired in
the past.  There were several episodes of Buffy (although they may have
been in Seasons 6/7 when it was on UPN; still) that showed girls
kissing and left the viewer with the impression they were going to have

Anyway, this whole issue is disgusting.  Has everyone forgotten All In
The Family, with its racial slurs and homophobia?  Can you imagine a
network program trying to get away with that sort of thing today?  Ugh.
And now it's all up to Harry Potter to carry the ball.
Like I said, the Janet Jackson fiasco was a watershed.  I haven't seen 
the show but I'll bet the context is more than just a friendly 
kiss--it's a suggestion they had sex as well.