High Cost Of Programming Is One Problem; Racy Content, Another

A chill is coming over future TV productions -- and it isn't just the economy.

Now the Supreme Court is piling on -- a victory for the Federal Communications Commission. The so-called "fleeting expletive" on broadcasts will now be subject to regulation and fines. The decision doesn't concern scripted, pre-produced TV shows -- just the unfiltered live content that broadcasters can't always readily stop.

Since the FCC has levied some fines against fleeting expletives in live TV shows, some programmers have been offering 5-second to 7-second delays on live programming -- all to catch the errant language. But the court says this isn't enough (because stuff can be missed anyway), and that broadcasters should be held responsible.

In a separate development, TV networks have complained that the high cost of TV network programming isn't going away; this is coupled with the fact that marketers want to pay less for those shows. In fact, it'll all get worse. TV actors still want -- and get -- big fees.



The good news for TV programmers is that the current court decision doesn't affect them. But this doesn't mean that cold winds aren't whipping around their legs, arms... and necks. The thought is, if live programming is a target now, is scripted, pre-produced programming next?

TV content critics are building steam for the criticism that all TV shows are getting rougher with language and images. Couple this with the fact that TV viewership is getting more fractionalized, and you have a problem. Where will this end up?

Big-brand marketers on TV still favor well-produced, high-quality scripted TV shows over run-of-the-mill reality shows. They'll even pay more for scripted content, which means producers can then ask for more in license fees, and in turn, TV networks can charge premium cost-per-thousand-viewer prices. So for TV producers scripted programming is still the gold standard. Will the possibility of FCC fines put a dent in the golden goose? 

Still, recent stories confirm that overall TV usage keeps growing. To me that simply means viewers like the content -- racy and all -- that's on television.

4 comments about "High Cost Of Programming Is One Problem; Racy Content, Another ".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, April 29, 2009 at 12:17 p.m.

    "can't always readily stop"? c'mon, it's called a 7-second delay and it worked for decades until the networks got lazy

  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, April 29, 2009 at 12:19 p.m.

    "Stuff can be missed"? Hire better screeners! Hire teams of censors rather than one guy whose mind wanders! Better yet, keep certain people off the air; was anyone really surprised when Jane Fonda let the c-word drop on morning TV?

  3. William Hughes from Arnold Aerospace, April 29, 2009 at 12:35 p.m.

    I applaud this Decision! I'm also backing the Children's Advocacy groups led by the Parent-Teacher Association who are petitioning the FCC to amend the V-Chip Law in order to get it to cover Advertising as well as Programming. There are things on TV that Children should not have to see or hear. This is a push in the right direction!

  4. Carl LaFong, April 30, 2009 at 11:34 a.m.

    The 7 second delay doesn't work.

    A director no less that Dave Wilson of Saturday Night Live once said so. During his tenure, the show was allegedly put on a delay several times. He admitted it never really was, because there was no real way to get it to work right.

    Witness the profanity that gets through on "live" shows that are delayed and you can see what he means.

    As for as having a "team" of screeners, Fox did that once with the live "In Living Color" Super Bowl halftime show in the '90s. A team of senior Fox execs stared at each other wondering whether to "hit the button" and by the time they decided an unscripted comment about Richard Gere was too racy to broadcast, it had already aired.

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