The Federal Communications Commission has rejected indecency complaints against ABC’s Veterans Day broadcast of “Saving Private Ryan,” saying that the context of the World War II film makes its frequent profanity permissible for a broadcast network.
The FCC’s order, was issued on Monday. It denies complaints by the American Family Association and others about the movie airing during primetime. The fear of indecency fines, and recent FCC rulings on profanity, led more than 60 ABC affiliates to pull the Oscar-winning movie from their airwaves on Nov. 11, even though the film had aired in the past without incident.
Director Steven Spielberg’s licensing agreement with ABC for “Saving Private Ryan” stipulates that the film air uncut.
“The horror of war and the enormous personal sacrifice it draws on cannot be painted in airy pastels,” outgoing FCC Chairman Michael Powell says in a statement accompanying the FCC’s ruling. “The true colors are muddy brown and fire red, and any accurate depiction of this significant historical tale could not be told properly without bringing that sense to the screen.”
Powell’s statement echoes one made by the Parents Television Council — usually the primary source for indecency complaints — prior to the movie’s airing. The council argued that given the wartime context, the movie’s language “is not meant to shock, nor is it gratuitous.”
The FCC also cited the fact that ABC made frequent warnings about the movie’s graphic content in rejecting the complaints.
In its order, the FCC said there was a difference line between the repeated use of “f***” in “Saving Private Ryan” and Bono saying it at the 2003 Golden Globe awards.