Mirren's Emmy Crack Draws FCC Complaint


The Parents Television Council called on federal regulators Thursday to fine NBC for "vulgar and obscene" comments by two actresses during Sunday's broadcast of the Primetime Emmy Awards.

Walking up to the stage to accept a best actress Emmy for HBO's "Elizabeth I," Helen Mirren commented on her relief that she didn't go "ass over tit" as she came up the stairs. A few minutes later, Calista Flockhart repeated the phrase before presenting another award.

The comments aired before 10 p.m. in the Central and Mountain time zones, when federal law prevents obscene language on over-the-air broadcasts.

"It is utterly irresponsible and atrocious for NBC to air this vulgar language -- when millions of children were in the viewing audience," Parents Television Council President L. Brent Bozell said in a written statement.

The group has filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission and urged its members in the two time zones to do the same.

The show was billed as a live telecast for most of the country, and Bozell criticized NBC for not bleeping out the comments. Two NBC spokeswomen did not return several calls seeking comment. The Emmy Awards were tape-delayed on the West Coast, but Mirren's comment remained in the broadcast.

Congress dramatically raised the stakes for indecency complaints in June, boosting fines tenfold, to a maximum of $325,000 for each violation.

The FCC ruled in January 2005 that isolated use of words describing private body parts, including "ass," "penis" and "testicle," were not indecent when they aired as scripted dialogue on shows and movies. But the ruling came during the tenure of former FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell. His successor, Kevin J. Martin, has taken a harder line on indecency.

Awards shows have caused indecency problems for networks in the past. Rock star Bono uttered the word "f***" on NBC's broadcast of the 2003 Golden Globe awards. Cher used the word during the 2002 Billboard Music Awards on FOX, and Nicole Richie said both "f***" and "s***" on FOX's broadcast of the awards show the following year.

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