Super Bowl ‘bird’: Angry parents’ group demands NBC use tape delay

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The Parents Television Council, an advocacy group concerned about what kids see on TV, has launched an on-line petition targeting NBC for M.I.A.'s apparent curse word and vulgar gesture; both came during the Super Bowl XLVI halftime show featuring Madonna and other performers.

The advocacy group’s petition demands, among other things, that: ‘NBC put all future live broadcasts on an adequate tape delay and to hold on-air talent accountable for their actions during live broadcasts.’

Melissa Henson, the council’s spokeswoman, told The Times that she wants other broadcasters to abide by the rules too. But she noted that both ABC and CBS have gone to great lengths to create safeguards -- such as a time delay -- to help prevent such vulgarities from reaching home audiences, especially young viewers.

About eight minutes into Madonna’s half-time act at Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVI, British sensation M.I.A. appeared to curse, saying, ‘I don’t give a … .’ It’s difficult to hear her clearly on the video. But what came next was much clearer: She flipped her middle finger to the more than 110 million American viewers.


The L.A.-based Parents Television Council says sports leagues and networks can no longer pretend they’ve been caught off guard by vulgarities or that they’re ill-prepared for misbehaving celebrities. That grace period expired long ago with Nipplegate -- the now-infamous 2004 halftime show featuring Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson and Janet Jackson’s nipple.

Given that history, the group says, NBC should have been ready. ‘If NBC had procedures in place, adequately trained staff, a reasonable time delay, and a commitment to preventing inappropriate content from airing during live broadcasts, the entire incident could have been avoided,’ the group says in an e-mail blast via its newsletter.

Henson said the Parents Television Council is particularly irritated with NBC given that the network has found itself in this situation before. (Examples: Bono dropping the F-bomb during the 2003 Golden Globes, and -- do not click the following links if you are easily offended -- both Tiki Barber and Jane Fonda dropping the C-word on audiences.)

In the years since Nipplegate, the Super Bowl has tried to play it safe with artists unlikely to run afoul of good taste. But Henson said that ‘it was a bit naïve on the part of the NFL to believe that this particular slate of artists would deliver a squeaky clean halftime show. But ultimately NBC is the one that licenses the airways.’

Henson said the blast went to subscribers, which number between 80,000-100,000. She said the missive went out last night, and that it isn’t yet known how many on-line signatures have been collected. The petition, and signatures, will be presented to NBC.

A spokesman for NBC could not be reached before this story was posted.

NBC and the NFL have apologized for the Super Bowl fallout. But the Parents Television Council says that isn’t good enough; it wants those responsible to be held ‘accountable.’ The Federal Communications Commission, which stepped in after Nipplegate and fined CBS, said this week that it has no comment at this time about on Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVI halftime show.


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-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch