“Goodfellas” director Martin Scorsese has weighed in on the $15,000 fine San Mateo public television station KCSM is facing for airing a PBS documentary he directed that liberally used the f- and s- words. In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, Scorsese says, “The language of the film was an essential element of the story … The language of blues musicians often was filled with expletives that shocked and challenged America’s white-dominated society of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.” If the fine against KCSM is upheld, Scorsese said it would have a deep impact on “the creative process generally and, more specifically, on the ability and willingness of filmmakers to produce authentic documentaries and other valuable programming for presentation on broadcast television.” KCSM has challenged the fine, saying it is unconstitutional. The FCC said KCSM could have aired the documentary without penalty between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., but that it wants to keep the airwaves clear of obscenity when children might be watching. Scorsese also objected to relegating the show to the late-night hours. “Our mutual artistic objective of broadly sharing an accurate depiction of one of the few uniquely American art forms will be severely undermined if the commission limits broadcast of the film to hours when viewership is lowest,” he argued. [LA Times: Indecency on broadcast television is mostly a word game] [MediaWeek: Scorsese teams up with college, pushes back at FCC]

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One Comment

  1. What’s next?

    Our government has effectively penalized legendary director Martin Scorsese for creating a film that captures the spirit and tenor of the times in which his profiled blues musicians lived. The last time I checked, creative artists create the best art (in most people’s opinions) when they are free to write the kind of book, paint the kind of portrait, produce the kind of TV show, or create whatever kind of art that their minds can conceive of…free of any outside interference brought about by man.

    The FCC commissioners would do well to take a stroll down to the Jefferson Memorial on Tidal Basin, not far from where their Washington office is. Upon entering this national shrine to one of America’s greatest renaissance men, they will find the following inscription:

    “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” – Thomas Jefferson.

    Human minds operate best when they are free and open. Since these minds have the capability to create various forms of art, it follows that government-imposed censorship of any kind will impose an artificial barrier to human creativity. Look at all the TV stations that did not air “Saving Private Ryan” (due to foul language of the sort found in Scorsese’s “Blues”). All because the FCC is trying to enforce its view of decency on any TV programming that it finds offensive. That kind of action forces TV artists to put limits on their own imaginations, the very imaginations that have the capability to produce tomorrow’s All In The Familys, Gunsmokes, Mary Tyler Moore Shows, and Seinfelds.

    As an afterthought, it’s intriguing that the FCC chose to fine one small TV station in San Mateo for Scorsese’s “Blues,” when it let thousands of others off the hook for airing an Oprah Winfrey show that featured a very frank discussion about teen sex. What was the agency’s rationale for that subjective decision? Such decisions are better left to America’s parents and individuals, who already have the ratings and content-blocking tools to make and enforce their own TV-viewing decisions.

    Check out TV Watch at http://www.televisionwatch.org for a common-sense voice of reason in this debate.

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