Swearing firefighters provoke 9/11 'profanity' rumpus

CBS affiliates pull Twin Towers documentary

A number of CBS affiliates decided not to broadcast award-winning documentary 9/11 on Sunday amid concerns that "airing profanity, primarily by firefighters during the crisis" might attract the unwanted attention of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Reuters reports.

Accordingly, CBS decided to offer 9/11 online, to "allow viewers in those markets to see the Peabody Award-winning special", as a company statement explained.

The film was scheduled to go out at 8pm yesterday. However, any station airing it before 10pm could be fined for breaching "broadcast decency standards". CBS confirmed that affiliates representing about 10 per cent of the US had elected "not broadcast the program or would show it late at night".

The documentary - produced by French filmmakers Gedeon and Jules Naudet and retired New York firefighter James Hanlon and narrated by Robert De Niro - uses footage shot inside the north tower of the WTC after it was attacked. Although the film contains "no actual carnage", the colourful language used by the firefighters was enough to provoke the American Family Association to ask CBS stations "to forgo or delay the 9/11 broadcast".

An FCC spokeswoman said the watchdog acts only on "complaints it receives and the historical context would likely be considered if any complaints were lodged". Reuters notes that ABC's 2004 broadcast of Saving Private Ryan "did not violate decency rules despite complaints". ®

Bootnote

Yes, we know: the world truly has gone completely mad. Readers are asked to direct their incredulity towards the American Family Association and those CBS affiliates who really ought to know better.

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