Next Tuesday public television viewers across the country will see 2 different versions of a documentary from PBS' critically acclaimed Frontline series. A Company of Soldiers follows a group of U-S soldiers in Iraq. The unedited verson leaves the soldiers sometimes raw language untouched. An edited version bleeps out 13 specific expletives. PBS will provide both. It's up to the station to decide which to run.
That means Channel 5 will be running the unedited version. It may be policy and Miller may have confidence in her audience and her decision, that doesn't mean that such decisions are made lightly these days. Ever since Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction, the nation's broadcasters have been casting a wary eye on Washington, waiting for the next huge fine...and...so far...waiting in vain.... for a clear set of guidelines of what is and isn't allowed. The uncertainty has had a chilling effect.
Last year...66 ABC affiliates decided not to run the movie "Saving Private Ryan" because of it contained....in a fictional account of D-Day the same kind of battlefield violence and language. A Company of Soldiers includes in a real life depiction of American soldiers at war.
Things haven't gotten any clearer for broadcasters nor has the risk gotten any lighter. This week the House passed a bill boosting fines for indecency in broadcasting. The bill contained no standards. All three Nevada congressmen voted for it.