News

C-SPAN Saves Judges’ 'F-Word’ Colloquies For Posterity

1/16/2010 2:00 AM Eastern

There was more swearing on C-SPAN last week than you would hear in a “losers” interview on American Idol, though in C-SPAN’s case without the editing for language.

After seeking and getting permission from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York to televise the oral rearguments in Fox vs. Federal Communications Commission on Jan. 13, the cable public-affairs network didn’t carry them live but tried to make up for that with multiple plays online, on cable and on radio, all unexpurgated.

One First Amendment attorney pondered whether it would have been a better move, in terms of a signal to the court about the importance of live televised coverage, for C-SPAN to have aired it live, but C-SPAN Networks vice president Peter Kiley said cost, logistics and other coverage obligations precluded a repeat of its live coverage of the December 2006 arguments in the case.

The case involves the use of the words “fuck” and “shit” by Cher and Nicole Richie during Fox’s live airing of the Billboard Awards broadcasts in 2002 and 2003, respectively. Those slips of the tongue have been through the legal mill all the way to the Supreme Court and back to the Second Circuit, whose decision could tee up reconsideration of the FCC’s fleeting profanity and nudity enforcement, if not the entire indecency enforcement regime.

With all that at stake, and language at the heart of the case, C-SPAN aired it as it was argued, with judges appearing to have some fun with terms like “poop,” “dickhead” and “bullshitter,” and trying to find the distinctions between those and the words the FCC found actionable, which two out of three judges chose to use rather than substitute with “s-word” and “f-word.”

C-SPAN streamed the coverage as soon as it could after the ending of the oral argument, according to Kiley, which meant rolling it online raw — in both senses of the term — at about 6 p.m., or a little over an hour and a half after arguments ended.

It made it available online in an on-demand version — one that could be fast-forwarded, paused and rewound — at about 7:45 p.m., then on C-SPAN Radio (90.1 FM in D.C.) and on XM Radio (ch. 132). That was followed by an airing on C-SPAN II at 9 p.m. and a planned airing on C-SPAN over the weekend on America & the Courts.

While swearing on C-SPAN Radio would itself be subject to FCC indecency regs, the FCC’s own lawyer said during argument that an airing of the proceedings would not run afoul of the regulations, pointing to the higher bar for news. Kiley says he received no complaints about that broadcast.

MTVN’s 'Hope For Haiti’ Has a Top Booker: CEO Judy McGrath

The MTV Networks-led telethon on Jan. 22 to benefit earthquake victims in Haiti has inspired a key executive to take charge: MTVN CEO Judy McGrath.

A rep who inquired for volunteering artists told The Wire MTVN said to refer any talent wanting to take part in the two-hour Hope for Haiti program to McGrath, not to the top talent execs at MTV (senior vice president Amy Doyle) or VH1 (exec VP Rick Krim).

“The talent agent is Judy — she is booking it personally,” the rep said Friday.

“She is booking talent, but so are a group of people that are really on it,” MTV P.R. maven Carole Robinson said. “This is a definitely passion-driven project. George Clooney is bringing people in himself, Judy’s making calls, people at all three [MTV] networks are on it, and we’re looking forward to bringing some great talent on it.” Doyle and Krim “are way on it, too,” she said.

ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN, BET, The CW, HBO, MTV, VH1 and CMT all will air the program beginning at 7 p.m.

The telethon, to originate from several points in the U.S. and from Haiti, will also be made available to MTV Networks International, CNN International and National Geographic channels worldwide.

Expected to participate thus far are George Clooney, in Los Angeles; Wyclef Jean, in New York City; and CNN’s Anderson Cooper, in Haiti.

Other musical performances and celebrity appearances are to be announced prior to the event, as well as live news reports from CNN.

Proceeds from the commercial-free telethon will be divided among five relief organizations currently operating in Haiti: Oxfam America, Partners in Health, the Red Cross, and Yele Haiti Foundation.

CES Further Stretches Definition Of 'Celebrity’

Las Vegas — As in years past, the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show tried to sex itself up with what it generously called celebrity appearances. You know, put a couple of recognizable human faces amid all those glittering gadgets. And as before, the A list was, well… we’ll say an A-minus to be nice.

Garfield is a celebrity? Really? And Obama Girl? Please. To be sure, Lady Gaga is a bona fide celeb, especially in her own mind, and she appeared at the booths of both Polaroid and Monster. But she didn’t sing, disappointing the gathered throngs. The Wire’s correspondent groused about this to a photographer in the press room, to which he replied: “She sings?”

Below are other “celebrity” appearances CES highlighted for Jan. 7, the first day of the 2010 exhibition.

  • Jill Zarin, star on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New York City;

  • Drew Carey, host of CBS’s The Price is Right;

  • Alan Kay, creator of the Dynabook;

  • James Worthy, “NBA legend;”

  • Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers.

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