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Jane Fonda c-word slip shocks US

NBC apologises for Today outrage

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Middle America is none to pleased with veteran thespiatrix Jane Fonda who yesterday entertained viewers of NBC's Today show with "a four-letter word for female genitalia".

Host Meredith Vieira had asked Fonda about her appearence in stage play The Vagina Monologues, which contains a section entitled "Cunt". In her answer, the actress referred to the segment by name, and the rest is history.

Vieira offered a swift on-screen apology, saying: "You know, before we go to break, in our last half-hour we were talking about The Vagina Monologues and Jane Fonda inadvertently said a word from the play that you don't say on television. It was a slip, and obviously she apologises, and so do we. We would do nothing to offend the audience, so please accept that apology."

According to Variety, a spokeswoman for the TV company later said the network was "letting Vieira's on-air apology to viewers serve as comment for the entire company".

The Parents Television Council, which describes itself as "the nation’s most influential advocacy organisation protecting children against sex, violence, and profanity in entertainment", was having none of it, and has "called on NBC to change its broadcasting practices" in response to the outrage.

It said in a statement: "There is no excuse for airing one of the most patently offensive words in the English language on broadcast television, especially at the breakfast hour. If an NBC employee used the 'c-word' to another employee, that employee would be suspended or even fired.

"While NBC's apology is helpful, it is not enough – millions of families were indeed offended. NBC must change its broadcasting practices and implement a time-delay on all of its live broadcasts, thereby ensuring that this type of language does not air on the publicly-owned airwaves."

The PTC further called on concerned citizens to "petition the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] in order to communicate clearly to NBC that this type of language is a violation of their broadcast licenses".

FCC action on the matter is, however, unlikely since "the agency's policy on live, fleeting expletives is under court challenge", as Variety explains.

As we reported last year, the FCC's 2004 ban on fleeting expletives took a bit of a legal shoeing when a New York court decided the body "may not have the right to police American airwaves".

Until 2004, the FCC's policy on passing profanity had been not to take action, but it decided to clamp down in a move described as "a reflection of President Bush's views".

It then weighed into Fox for two incidents, one involving singer Cher, the other Nicole Ritchie. In her acceptance speech at the 2002 Billboard Music Awards, Cher declared: "People have been telling me I'm on the way out every year, right? So fuck 'em."

Richie the following year entertained the crowd at the 2003 Billboard Music Awards with: "Have you ever tried to get cow shit out of a Prada purse? It's not so fucking simple."

Fox was found to be in breach of the revised indecency code, but was not sanctioned because the two incidents predated the revision. The company, backed by other broadcasters, challenged the ruling on the grounds that the FCC had "breached the US Constitution's first amendment, which guarantees the right to free speech".

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York agreed that the action was unconstitutional, and "questioned the basis" of the FCC policy overhaul. ®

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