S-bomb slips through on Today


Matt Lauer of NBC’s Today Show was interviewing Norwegian base-jumper Hans Lange, who was describing a jump gone bad that could easily have had fatal consequences, when the guest uncorked an s-bomb, which went unbleeped during Eastern Time Zone broadcasts of the 9/11/08 edition of the show.

“We condemn NBC for its arrogance in choosing not to bleep this profanity, and for its arrogance in choosing not to apologize to its viewers, many of whom included children.  NBC continues to show a clear pattern of contempt for the broadcast decency law by airing yet another unbleeped profanity on its morning show.  The PTC is filing an indecency complaint and is urging its members to speak out about NBC’s utter disregard for decency over the public airwaves,” said PTC President Tim Winter. PTC said the five second delay should have been used to scrub the offending word, and the organization is asking its supporters who are Eastern Time Zone residents to also file an FCC complaint.

According to a report in People Magazine, Lauer did in fact apologize for Lange’s indiscretion and announced that the incident would be tidied up for airings further west.

PTC took the opportunity to remind everybody that Jane Fonda let a Carlin word slip out back in February as evidence that this behavior constitutes a “clear pattern” for NBC.

RBR/TVBR observation: What we find stunning in this particular instance is that even though we constantly have our ear close to the ground regarding all broadcast matters, we didn’t even hear about this until yesterday. Where, oh where is the outrage? Is the sum and total of outrage going to be only that which may be whipped up by PTC in the form of getting its members to complain about a broadcast many of them no doubt never saw (other than googling up a video on PTC’s suggestion)? Now if Lauer and Lange engaged in a festival of s-bombs and other profanities, there no doubt would be some public backlash. But this was once again a surprise, fleeting, and singluar slip, not intended to pander or titillate but to communicate a speaker’s feeling in a moment of life and death—that should satisfy the regulatory establishment. The lack of any public outcry besides PTC should settle the question of community standards.