Award-winning film Saving Private Ryan, despite repeated use of the “f-word,” is not indecent under federal law, a unanimous Federal Communications Commission said Monday.
Dozens of ABC affiliates refused to run the Oscar-winning Steven Spielberg World War II epic last Veterans Day, fearing that use of the f-word would violate FCC indecency policies.
The agency received complaints about the film after its airing on ABC, but it refused to find that the movie ran afoul of the rules. The commission rejected similar complaints a few years ago.
In a statement, FCC chairman Michael Powell -- who has taken heat for the agency’s crackdown on broadcast indecency since last February’s Janet Jackson Super Bowl episode -- said the agency reviewed the film based on the context in which the profanities were used.
“Today, we reaffirm that content cannot be evaluated without careful consideration of context. Saving Private Ryan is filled with expletives and material arguably unsuitable for some audiences, but it is not indecent in the unanimous view of the [FCC],” Powell said.
The FCC bans indecent content -- generally defined as patently offensive sex and foul language -- from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. when children are expected to be watching in large numbers. Fines run as high as $32,500 per violation, although House-passed legislation would up the maximum to $500,000.
Powell -- a former Army officer and the son of a general -- said the film’s use of profanity was intended to convey realism, not to shock the audience. He indicated that ABC affiliates warned parents about the film’s strong content.
“The horror of war and the enormous personal sacrifice it draws on cannot be painted in airy pastels. The true colors are muddy brown and fire red, and any accurate depiction of this significant historical tale could not be told properly without bringing that sense to the screen. It is for these reasons that the FCC has previously declined to rule this film indecent,” Powell said.