The Internet has revolutionized many things, with film distribution next in the web’s inevitable all-consuming media web. But this story in the Times today, “WB Censors Its Own Drama for Fear of F.C.C. Fines” reminds me that the Internet is also one of the few places that the F.C.C. can’t regulate. Because of crazy fines levied recently (a record $3.6 million against CBS for an episode of “Without a Trace” that suggested a teenage sexual orgy), the WB network apparently cut content of a new show “The Bedford Diaries” against the creator’s wishes. But instead of leaving the offending material on the cutting room floor, the company is making it available on the Web today. “It is the first time a network has offered on another outlet an uncut version of a program it has been forced to censor,” reports the story.
I think this is good for two reasons: 1) it shows that content can and will get out to the world anyway, regardless of the F.C.C’s ridiculously prude dictates, and 2) it further defangs mainstream media of its edge, making it less real, less topical and more insulated. As the show’s creator Tom Fontana said, “It’s like they’re telling people that broadcast television now has much less interesting stuff than you see on the Web or cable.” Exactly.
And so once again the benemoths are crafting their own demise through restrictions and limitations and self-censorship.