EDITORS’ NOTE: Growing coarseness in society complicates Baptist Press’ mission to inform and equip readers while also maintaining biblical standards of decency. The following article makes reference to a vile curse word to alert people of faith to a serious situation regarding the poor policing of public airwaves. The editorial staff regrets repeating the statement (even with censoring); however, there is no other way to report the affront.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Disappointed viewers are filing indecency complaints with the Federal Communications Commission after actress Diane Keaton uttered the f-word on “Good Morning America” Jan. 15 and ABC failed to edit it out before it reached millions of homes where children could have been listening.
Dwayne Hastings, a vice president with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the incident is reflective of a culture where crudity is king.
“The entertainment elite act like spoiled toddlers, always looking to push the limits of propriety and offload their lowbrow values on us,” Hastings told Baptist Press. “My family is expected to tolerate their right to spew vulgarities whenever and wherever they wish, while my right to have my family protected from trash speech during a morning network news program is ignored.”
Keaton appeared live on GMA at 8:20 a.m. Eastern time to promote her latest movie, “Mad Money,” and during her segment was attempting to compliment co-host Diane Sawyer on her looks.
“I’d like to have lips like that. Then I wouldn’t have worked on my f****** personality or my …. Excuse me. My personality. If I had lips like yours, I’d be better off,” Keaton told Sawyer, according to a transcript by the Media Research Center.
Sawyer, MRC said, appeared momentarily shocked and then started laughing.
“My mother is going to work on your personality with soap in your mouth, is what she’s going to do,” Sawyer said.
The veteran newswoman later ended the segment with Keaton by saying, “This is Diane Keaton who will be answering to the censors.”
Robert Knight, director of Media Research Center’s Culture and Media Institute, said ABC could have prevented the foul language from airing.
“The media keep reminding us that it’s a high-tech, push-button world, but ABC can’t seem to manage the delay button at Good Morning America,” Knight said. “I doubt that many viewers, especially mothers with children present, are eager to tune in to Good Morning America to hear an obscenity.”
Knight expressed regret that ABC had not taken responsibility for broadcasting the harsh curse word.
“The presence of Hollywood celebrities, who are known for vulgar outbursts, ought to send the in-house monitors at Good Morning America into high alert mode,” he said in a Jan. 15 news release. “But this morning, they were asleep at the switch. At least, that’s the most generous interpretation of this unfortunate incident.”
Hastings said Keaton “needs an encounter with an industrial-size bar of Ivory soap.”
“The real tragedy of this incident — as well as the many other on-air utterances of profanity — is that the vast majority of viewers, while stunned for a moment, probably weren’t all that shocked by the outburst,” Hastings said. “It’s not a laughing matter.”
The Parents Television Council called on its supporters to file indecency complaints with the FCC regarding what it called an “inappropriate and offensive broadcast,” noting that the Keaton segment was the second airing of explicit content on a news program in recent weeks. An episode of “60 Minutes” that aired Dec. 30 at 7 p.m. Eastern featured a music video in which several people raised their middle fingers while singing “[Bleeped f-word] the feds,” PTC said.
“The networks have made weak apologies time and time again for incidents like this, but they steadfastly refuse to take any action to prevent a recurrence,” Tim Winter, president of PTC, said. “Diane Keaton’s ‘f-word’ on national television and the lack of remorse by ABC that accompanied it cannot go unnoticed.”
Last summer a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in a 2-1 ruling rejected FCC decisions that the uses of obscene language in live programs on Fox during prime time in 2002 and 2003 were indecent.
“Thanks to the inexplicable decision of two judges in New York City, the issue of so-called ‘fleeting’ profanity remains unsolved at the FCC,” Winter said. “These instances are blatant reminders of why the Supreme Court must grant review of this case and overturn the ridiculous New York court ruling.”
Winter said it’s also time for Congress to consider legislation sponsored by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D.-W.Va., that calls for the FCC to “maintain a policy that a single word or image may constitute indecent programming.” The legislation, introduced after the New York ruling, was approved by a Senate committee in July and received the support of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
In related news, the popular ABC show “Ugly Betty” became a focus of PTC concern in December when the Family Friendly Programming Forum gave the show its Family Television Award for Outstanding Comedy.
“While we appreciate that Ugly Betty was designed to be a family friendly viewing alternative and was presented as such to the ABC television network, the program’s content standards have careened off its original course so that now it is clearly not appropriate for a family audience,” Winter, the PTC president, said.
During the first season of Ugly Betty, the PTC recorded 205 instances of sexual content and 154 instances of foul language.
“It seems wholly irresponsible for the FFPF to present the direct opposite of a family friendly show with a prestigious award that deems it appropriate for families,” Winters said.
Ugly Betty won two Golden Globe awards last year, and America Ferrera, who stars as Betty, was nominated this year for a best actress Golden Globe. The show also was recognized by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation last year as the outstanding television comedy series for “offering the only male-to-female transgender character on primetime television.”
To file an indecency complaint with the FCC regarding the Good Morning America episode, call 1-888-225-5322 or complete a form at the following link: http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/cib/fcc475B.cfm. To contact David Westin, president of ABC News, call 212-456-6200 or write to ABCNews, 7 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.