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‘Bedford’ trimmed to skirt FCC

From Associated Press

Barry Levinson said he doesn’t blame the WB network for airing a censored first episode of his drama revolving around a college class on sexuality. He holds the Federal Communications Commission responsible.

“We don’t believe that the show should have been edited, but the network is very fearful of what the FCC has been doing recently,” Levinson said. “They’re intimidating the networks and levying these fines, so the networks are not sure of what they can or can’t do.”

“The Bedford Diaries,” set to premiere at 9 p.m. Wednesday, will air minus scenes of two girls kissing and a girl opening her jeans, said Levinson, a prominent producer-director whose film credits include “Rain Man,” “The Natural” and “Diner.”

The network, which has used the Internet to promote the new series, is streaming a full, uncut version of the pilot on its website.

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Last week, the government renewed its crackdown on what it considers indecency in television by proposing a total of $3.9 million in new fines, including a record $3.6-million fine involving the depiction of a teenage sexual orgy on CBS’ “Without a Trace.”

Levinson said he and fellow executive producers Tom Fontana and Julie Martin had delivered what they and WB agreed was the final cut of “Diaries” when the FCC fines prompted WB’s second thoughts. The producers refused to make further edits because they were “out of the bounds of logic we could understand,” Levinson said.

“You can’t even argue it,” he said. “In its context, the show doesn’t advocate any behavior. In fact, in many ways it talks about the responsibility of the individual. But the FCC doesn’t look at anything in context. So, therefore, they’re upset that two girls kissed, period.”

In a statement, the WB (which is partly owned by Tribune Co., publisher of The Times) said it “takes its responsibility as a broadcast network very seriously and we have always been mindful of the FCC’s indecency rules.

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“While we believe that the previous version of ‘The Bedford Diaries’ is in keeping with those rules, out of an abundance of caution, we decided to make some additional changes” to the first episode, the network said.


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