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View Full Version : South Park - how do they get around the censors?


Richard Pearse
11-11-2003, 05:36 AM
South Park.

I love the show but sometimes it contains material that is so very very wrong on a variety of levels, I wonder how it gets shown on free-to-air TV.

In Australia we are, no doubt, behind the US with regards to South Park episodes and often repeats are shown when between seasons so the following may be an episode from 6 months - 2 years ago.

Cartman gives a talk on how the Latino community has contributed to the Arts in America and comes out with his left hand done up as Jennifer Lopez. The rest of the episode follows Cartman's struggle with the new Jennifer Lopez's fame and at one point Ben Affleck (sp?) falls in love with Cartman's hand (still dressed as J Lo) and even gets oral sex from it :o.

This episode is but a mere example of how wrong South Park can be (something I enjoy from a humourous point of view).

How does it get past the censors? Are they so stupid that they can't see the connotations?

Richard Pearse
11-11-2003, 05:41 AM
Originally posted by 1920s Style Death Ray
:o.


That should have been :eek:

jjimm
11-11-2003, 05:52 AM
Originally posted by 1920s Style Death Ray
That should have been :eek: Is the change because of reduced girth, then? :o :eek:

gex gex
11-11-2003, 06:43 AM
The U.S. has freedom of speech. That's why they get away with it there.

In Australia, we don't have freedom of speech. We have sensors, but South Park falls well within the MA guidelines. They show it after 8.30, on SBS (which is covered by a different code to the commercial networks).

Australian censors are prudes, unrepresentative of general society and despicably stifly free speech, but they aren't that bad. South Park is pretty tame.

Richard Pearse
11-11-2003, 06:51 AM
Originally posted by gex gex
The U.S. has freedom of speech. That's why they get away with it there.

In Australia, we don't have freedom of speech. We have sensors, but South Park falls well within the MA guidelines. They show it after 8.30, on SBS (which is covered by a different code to the commercial networks).

Australian censors are prudes, unrepresentative of general society and despicably stifly free speech, but they aren't that bad. South Park is pretty tame.

I was under the impression that the US while having "freedom of speech" actually tended to be a lot more strict with media than Australia. I know that many American Tripple J (radio station) guests have to be reassured that, yes, they can say "fuck" on the air.

South Park is tame in terms of graphic/language, but IMHO the ideas often presented are far far worse than saying "cunt" or showing sexual intercourse.

I do understand why South Park can do it, but I think it's slightly illogical.

Richard Pearse
11-11-2003, 06:56 AM
Originally posted by jjimm
Is the change because of reduced girth, then? :o :eek:

Ah, yeah, Ben was a little cold :D

Coriolanus
11-11-2003, 07:38 AM
Originally posted by gex gex
The U.S. has freedom of speech. That's why they get away with it there.

In the USA, South Park is on Comedy Central, a cable channel which are not governed by the FCC or their laws against 'obscene broadcasts' (http://fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/obscene.html) which are a restriction of 'free speech'. A show such as South Park could not be broadcast in the USA without some major censoring, both in content and language.

SmackFu
11-11-2003, 10:01 AM
I believe that even if it was broadcast in the US, it wouldn't be censored by the government per se. There is no federal agency that reviews TV shows beforehand, just one (the FCC) that acts on citizen complaints and gives out fines.

friedo
11-11-2003, 12:48 PM
There is no active censoring of TV or radio shows by the government in the US. Each network has a "standards and practices" department which sets content guidelines for the network. They have to balance what the viewers want with what the advertisers are comfortable with. Obviously, the network broadcast standards have been quite liberalized over time. Back in the 1950s, you couldn't even show two people in bed together.

The FCC can act in response to consumer complaints about broadcast network content. If they find something to be obscene (a very narrow criteria) then they can fine the network. This is very rare, and in the history of the FCC, only a few fines have been imposed on TV broadcast networks, and a few dozen on radio stations. The vast majority of the FCC's enforcement actions are for ensuring technical standards and other boring minutia.

Cable channels are not bound by these content restrictions, and can theoreitcally air whatevery they want. But they still have advertisers to placate. Premium cable channels, which have no advertisers and make their money from subscriptions, can get away with pretty much whatever they want.

In the US, South Park airs on Comedy Central, an advertiser-supported cable channel. They can do it because they've found advertisers willing to put their ads on the show, as long as it's aired late at night. They have even shown the South Park movie, an order of magnitude more offensive than the TV show, unedited.

pepperlandgirl
11-11-2003, 01:24 PM
There is no active censoring of TV or radio shows by the government in the US. Each network has a "standards and practices" department which sets content guidelines for the network. They have to balance what the viewers want with what the advertisers are comfortable with.

Until last year, the UPN, for example, didn't have a standards and practices department. That's why BtVS got away with Buffy and Spike fucking each other until the house fell down around them. That's also why they have a standards and practices department now.

troub
11-11-2003, 01:35 PM
Originally posted by friedo
They can do it because they've found advertisers willing to put their ads on the show. . .

Thank you, Girls Gone Wild!!

Johnny L.A.
11-11-2003, 01:39 PM
Possibly related (from an e-mail, so no link):
FCC Says Its OK to Use the F-Word

[T]he Federal Communications Commission has decided that the most common, if also most crude, four-letter synonym for the sex act may be uttered on television---if, that is, it is used properly...

On Jan. 19 of this year, on the nationally televised Golden Globes Awards program, the singer Bono, accepting an award, said either this is really, really fucking brilliant, or this is ficking great. As a result, 234 complaints were filed against the TV stations that carried the show, one of them from a watchdog group called the Parents Television Council...

The word fucking may be crude and offensive, but, in the context presented here, did not describe sexual or excretory activities or functions. Rather, the performer used the word fucking as an adjective or expletive to emphasize an exclamation. Indeed, in similar circumstances, we have found that offensive language used as an insult rather than as a description of sexual or excretory activity or organs is not within the scope of the Commissions prohibition of indecent program content.

So it was that the FCC decided to reject the claims that this program content is indecent. In other words, its okay to say fuck on television if youre not talking about fucking.
I haven't heard "fuck" uttered on South Park, but they did have that one episode where they said "shit" 163 times (more or less). Interestingly, "shit" is censored in later shows.

troub
11-11-2003, 01:54 PM
I'd be inclined to search for a real cite on that, Johnny L.A.. While it is funny to think that the morality-thugs don't care if you're viciously insulting someone as long as you're not talking about sex, it just sounds too funny to be true.

Johnny L.A.
11-11-2003, 02:05 PM
I'd be inclined to search for a real cite on that
Here's one (http://aversion.com/news/news_article.cfm?news_id=1520).
Here's another (http://chronictea.com/chronic/tea/link.php/21).
Here's feedback (http://dailynebraskan.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2003/10/10/3f86348ccb912) from The Daily Nebraskan.

troub
11-11-2003, 02:11 PM
There is mention of it in this hilarious document (http://parentstv.org/PTC/publications/reports/stateindustrylanguage/stateoftheindustry-language.pdf) ("the foul language pie" ROFL), but searches turn up only repostings in blogs, message boards, and other "unreliable" personal or agenda-driven sites.

rjung
11-11-2003, 02:14 PM
Originally posted by friedo
There is no active censoring of TV or radio shows by the government in the US.
...unless someone wanted to broadcast a TV special that portrayed a former Republican President in a less-than-glowing light -- then the RNC will come in with guns a'blazin'! :D

troub
11-11-2003, 02:28 PM
The first two "cites" you provide give exact quotes of what Bono supposedly said, yet in the two articles the quote is different. Why? I smell something odd there.

The only thing I can find is this document (http://parentstv.org/PTC/fcc/coppsresponse.pdf) (again, from the website of the complaining "council"), which vaguely alludes that the decision may have something to do with an "approach" wherein a word that is otherwise indecent is deemed not because it's used as an adjective, etc. The guy even says he "cannot comment on the specifics of a decision that I hope will soon be coming before me." Meaning he can't talk about the Bono case specifically, and in any case the incident apparently still in the queue to be reviewed.

So the story apparently is legit, but people have taken it and added their own material to it and presented it as news. Real news sites realize that vague allusions and making assumptions about decisions in a case that hasn't even been decided yet isn't good journalism.

Johnny L.A.
11-11-2003, 02:34 PM
searches turn up only repostings in blogs, message boards, and other "unreliable" personal or agenda-driven sites.
ABC News (Houston) (http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/news/100703_APent_bono.html)
York Daily Record (http://ydr.com/story/living/15079/)

And Stright from the horse's mouth (http://fcc.gov/eb/Orders/2003/DA-03-3045A1.html) (FCC ruling File No. EB-03-IH-0110)
IV. CONCLUSION

7. In view of the foregoing, we conclude that the various licensees that aired the ``Golden Globe Awards'' program on
January 19, 2003, did not violate the law, and, therefore,
no action is warranted.

troub
11-11-2003, 02:41 PM
That's better :D. You're right, then.

Thanks Johnny.

Mehitabel
11-11-2003, 02:50 PM
Actually, Comedy Central, right after the inaugaration of Bush II, had a very irreverent program called "That's My Bush!" which portrayed him as a dumb frat boy type (although largely benevolent, and they were working on a Gore version if HE'D won. Officially.) Fortunately, it finished its run before 9/11; even CC didn't make fun of politics for a while after that. But then again, that was taste and sensitivity at work; the government wouldn't and couldn't have done anything if they had gone totally tasteless. But they would have lost the goodwill of many of their viewers, which means lost money.

This ain't the UK with its Spitting Image and all, but there's TONS of anti-Republican or anti-Democrat stuff on American TV, depending on who's in power. I think we just don't *export* it. An Aussie wouldn't laugh too hard at Karl Rove and George Stephanopoulos, would they, just like most John Howard jokes would soar over my head, and I'm fairly informed for a seppo.

Neurotik
11-11-2003, 02:51 PM
Originally posted by rjung
...unless someone wanted to broadcast a TV special that portrayed a former Republican President in a less-than-glowing light -- then the RNC will come in with guns a'blazin'! :D
Of course, the RNC is not the government and there was no legislation passed, nor introduced, that would have any impact whatsoever on CBS because of that special.

Just an interest group lobbying to get its way. Par for the course.

Mehitabel
11-11-2003, 02:54 PM
Whoops, I gotta learn to read...the RNC, etc. objection to the recent film was more that it was being presented as serious, solemn, and historical, and therefore the inaccuracies DID matter. Our Supreme Court has protected satire very widely.

In the US, in theory, the airwaves belong "to the people", and therefore the FCC has some leeway to make rules; cable TV OTOH is free and open and theoretically, if you don't like it, you can drop the channel or boycott it or whatever. That's why the rules are so different and why SOUTH PARK can go its merry way while even a serious network drama like NYPD BLUE gets every curseword scrutinized.

rjung
11-11-2003, 03:53 PM
Originally posted by Neurotik
Of course, the RNC is not the government and there was no legislation passed, nor introduced, that would have any impact whatsoever on CBS because of that special.
Nah, they're just the political party that currently controls the White House, the Supreme Court, Congress, and the FCC... not the same thing at all! ;)

Why, the local Kiwanis Club could've done the same thing, really...

ElwoodCuse
11-12-2003, 10:05 AM
Don't forget the 10pm to 6 am exemption--between those hours, the indecency rules don't apply, even on over-the-air broadcasters.

DaPearl
11-12-2003, 12:02 PM
As for the bleeping of words on South Park, I think I heard that they can say anything they want but Matt Stone and Trey Parker think its funnier to have the words (or at least some of them) bleeped out.

Coriolanus
11-12-2003, 12:17 PM
friedo expanded what I said to include the advertisers. That's the deal. There's big money from soft-drink folks, video game folks and.. the rest.

A friend just messaged me about 'NEW SOUTH PARK TONIGHT 10PM'

I sent him 162 'shit's

He sent it again!

I sent a clever rejoinder:

Stick em in your mouth and suck em!
Suck on my Chocolate Salty balls

BTW, there's a new SP tonight. 10 PM.

Neurotik
11-12-2003, 12:36 PM
Originally posted by rjung
Nah, they're just the political party that currently controls the White House, the Supreme Court, Congress, and the FCC... not the same thing at all! ;)

Why, the local Kiwanis Club could've done the same thing, really...
Actually, they could have. Unless the RNC said that it will order the FCC to fine CBS or revoke their broadcasting rights then it's a non-issue. The RNC didn't forfeit its right to squak as loudly as it wants on whatever issue it wants as long as didn't advocate government censorship.

Your comment was in response to government censorship. I realize it was a joke, but it was a lame and inaccurate one.

There was no government censorship of the Reagan movie.

Gatopescado
11-12-2003, 01:00 PM
Originally posted by 1920s Style Death Ray

...at one point Ben Affleck falls in love with Cartman's hand (still dressed as J Lo) and even gets oral sex from it ...

Did you see the episode where Cartman is on a search for semen and he finds a guy in an alley, and Cartman says, "He said I could have all I wanted, all I had to do was close my eyes and suck it out of a hose"?

I'll never eat tapioca again!

CaptBushido
11-12-2003, 01:07 PM
The Federal Communications Commission has decided that the most common, if also most crude, four-letter synonym for the sex act may be uttered on television---if, that is, it is used properly...

That reminds me of something I saw on... why the South Park Episode of 163 Shits, oddly enough!

Teacher: Alright, children, in lieu of the common usage I'm supposed to clarify the school's position on the word "SHIT"
Kyle: Wow! We can say "SHIT" in school, now?
Teacher: Yes, but only in the figurative noun form or in the adjective form.
Cartman: Huh?
Teacher: You can only use it in the non-literal sense. For instance, "That's a shitty picture of me," is now fine. However the literal noun form "This is a picture of shit," Is still naughty.
Cartman: I don't get it.
Kyle: Me neither.
Teacher: The adjective form is also acceptable, for example: "The weather outside is shitty." However, the literal adjective is not appropriate. For example, "My bad diarrea made the inside of the toilet bowel shitty, and I had the clean it with a rag which then also became shitty." That's right out!

Yookeroo
11-12-2003, 03:34 PM
Originally posted by Neurotik
Your comment was in response to government censorship. I realize it was a joke, but it was a lame and inaccurate one.

If it was accurate, it wouldn't be funny at all. It would be scary. It's the fact that it is inaccurate, yet close enough to the truth that makes it funny.

prisoner6655321
11-12-2003, 07:11 PM
You think that SOUTH PARK is bad? You really shouldn't be asking this question about South Park. You should be asking this question about Family Guy. As some stated earlier, South Park can get away with these things because it is shown on an advertiser-supported cable tv channel, which isn't restricted by the FCC. But what did Fox at one period of time show regularily at 8:00 pm???? FAMILY GUY!!! And Family Guy was shown on a network TV station, which IS restricted by the FCC. Now that it is being shown on Cable, it is shown after 10:00, though I think I remember seeing it IN THE AFTERNOON once or twice.

Plus, Family Guy is MUCH more controversial. I mean, one show they actually showed Quagmire having sex with some girl!!!!! On FOX!!!! At 8:00!! The first time I saw that my eyes popped out of my head and I thought, "how did they get away with THAT?!" South Park didn't actually show Cartman's hand around Ben's thing. Sure it was pretty clearly implied by the context. But it was pretty freaking OBVIOUS what Quagmire was doing on Family Guy. You didn't have to be listening to the show to understand what was happening there. In the South Park episode, I think you had to be actively watching the show to understand that J-Lo/Cartman was giving Ben a blow/hand job.

Family Guy makes South Park look like The Simpsons.

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