Grammy viewers might have wondered what the bleep happened to the music.
Grammy executive producer Ken Ehrlich said Monday that the hip-hop era has created a tricky situation for award shows, which must keep up with the culture but also abide by broadcast decency standards. Indeed, networks have spent years battling the Federal Communications Commission over curse words uttered during national telecasts.
"I knew going in that it was going to be pretty rough" to broadcast the performance, Ehrlich said, adding that it was up to the network whether to hit the censor button. "They have a responsibility to standards and we have a responsibility to represent music of the moment, and some of that music is edgier. . . . But this is music that is very popular, and we can't do a show that represents everything that is out there without this being part of it."
Ehrlich, who has produced the Grammys since 1980, said that through the years he has approached artists scheduled to perform and asked them to remember network standards. Some chose to perform a tamer version of a song, as Kanye West and Jamie Foxx did with "Gold Digger" a few years ago. But others let fly the verbal bombs and let the network handle them.
Paul Levinson, a media professor at Fordham University, felt CBS went too far.
"Ed Sullivan has become a laughing stock for his presentation of Elvis only from the waist up, his censoring of the Rolling Stones and his attempt to censor the doors," Levinson wrote on his blog. "Historians will similarly look with ridicule upon CBS's ham-handed handling of the Grammys."
The network said Monday that no one was available to comment.