Chi'en Continued: WCBS Replies, or: What's So Profane About It?

The triumph of evil over good that tossed Arthur Chi'en to the broadcasting curb like so much bundled newspaper continues. After sending a quick note off to WCBS, encouraging them to suck it up and rehire Chi'en, I received this terse note in my inbox today:

Thank you for sharing your concerns with us. The Viacom Television Stations Group has a clear policy regarding the use of inappropriate language. All employees are informed of the policy and are expected to conform their conduct to it. We appreciate knowing your viewpoint and hope that you will continue to watch WCBS-TV.

After having been the target of penalties for both Janet Jackson's gilded nipple and Howard Stern's unfettered mouth, Viacom have clearly given in. They've been punished, and they've got a rule: No Bad Words.

But would the FCC really have levied a fine for Chi'en's use of the so-called F-word? It seems much less provocative than most other profanity issues on the airwaves today. Take Stern, for example; setting aside any particular definition of "profanity", Stern's show uses rough language and sexual references to explicitly provocative effect--and while he has used profanity judiciously in the past, he could succeed brilliantly without resorting to Carlin's Seven Forbidden Words. Even Bono, whose "fucking brilliant" elicited a questionable flip-flop reversed ruling from the FCC, could be said to have used the word in a more direct and intentional fashion than the WCBS reporter's spin-and-drop-the-mic use of "fuck". Certainly, the "Crazy Cabbie" guy from Stern behind him, with his raised middle finger, was an small order of magnitude more offensive than Chi'en. Don't even get me started on Jackson's nipple.

While Chi'en clearly lost his cool and Viacom has warned their employees about using naughty words, the fact that an accomplished reporter with no prior record was fired on the spot for reacting to on-camera provocation in a understandably angry but relatively less provocative fashion is absurd--and more than a little worrisome. If Viacom's not willing to examine the facts for at least a day or so before taking action, what kind of message does that send other networks, the FCC, and the general public? That a single word is more powerful than a reasoned decision?

By the way, where, in all this live TV, was Viacom's celebrated seven-second delay?

Posted by tangentialist at May 24, 2005 05:39 PM | more tangentialism

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» Arthur Chi'en Back On The F***ing Job! from tangentialism
Our dear friend Arthur Chi'en, last we heard, was still reeling after his unjust dismissal for reacting like an average local New Yorker to two average local New York morons on a local New York newscast. Today, justice is done,... [Read More]

Tracked on August 22, 2005 09:24 PM