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The Answer

Here’s the email I received from WFAA about not airing Life As We Know It. Apparently, they presume that their viewers are unable to change the channel if they think something is offensive. And the FCC argument? Guess what, WFAA? Other markets aired the program and were not subject to fines. It’s just not your job to tell me what is or is not suitable for viewing.

Thank you for writing about our decision not to air an episode of ABC’s drama, “Life As We Know It” on Thursday night, October 28, at 8 p.m.

It is extremely rare that we pre-empt network programs due to inappropriate content, however after much discussion and careful consideration we believed it was necessary.

The program targets and is primarily marketed to one demographic: teens. The storyline contained explicit material about a teenage boy (a minor) having sex with one of his teachers. It was a provocative subject, and featured portrayals that went way over the top. The storyline and visual images were well beyond community standards particularly as it relates to teens.

We have been discussing the content of ” Life As We Know It” with ABC since its premiere, and this particular episode was one that crossed the line of appropriateness.

Being in television news, we believe that the right to free speech is of paramount importance. But, as a licensee of the FCC, we are obligated to monitor content for appropriateness, violence, sexual content and indecency.

We will continue to monitor the program and make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Best regards,

Kathy Clements

4 Responses to “The Answer”

  1. Corey Says:

    Having been through this sort of situation before, and with my little bit of experience in broadcast television, allow me to pose another point of view.

    The question here is not about the viewer’s ability to change the channel if they don’t like something. It’s about being a good steward of the privilege a television station has been given by the FCC to enter someone’s home. This is the core of what the indecency laws are about. Indecency and obscenity are not a general rule; they are defined in the community to which the station serves.

    WFAA is mandated by the FCC as a condition of its broadcast license to not air things that could be received as indecent or obscene in the market it serves. Because of the kind of place the metroplex is, I can understand your displeasure with their choice in not airing this program. However, I can see and agree with their choice in not airing it, as Dallas isn’t New York or San Francisco.

    In sum, obscenity and indecency are not judged by other markets, they are judged by the market the station serves. WFAA made a fully lawful choice, and I don’t blame them after all the stuff that happened with CBS and the Super Bowl; everyone’s under a watchful eye now.

  2. Kevin Donahue Says:

    Not showing it, without any explanation, was irresponsible – even if it was legit. I would have liked to see them move the episode to a more appropriate time slot.

    That being said, there was nothing in the scene in question that was vastly different from what has been shown on NYPD Blue and other ABC programs.

  3. Brian Says:

    If memory serves, WFAA pulled the same stunt with NYPD Blue. I assume they’ll get over their moral objections when they start losing advertising money.

  4. Merrin Says:

    Actually, WFAA did air the infamous NYPD Blue episode. They made sure they ran all the appropriate disclaimers, but they aired it. And Kevin’s right: There was nothing that would not have been appropriate for a later time-slot. In addition, their argument centered around the student-teacher relationship, which would indicate that it’s not okay to beat me over the head with sordid details of Mary Kay Letourneau’s trial, imprisonment, and recent engagement to Vili Falauu. WFAA has no problem reporting that.
    You can’t have it both ways.




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