FCC: ‘Private Ryan,’ Sitcoms Not Indecent

WASHINGTON, D.C. Federal regulators on Monday decided the Veterans’ Day broadcast of the movie Saving Private Ryan on ABC did not violate decency standards, despite the liberal use of the F-word and other expletives by the World War II soldiers depicted in the film.

The Federal Communications Commission also rejected complaints about episodes of NBC’s Will and Grace and Fox’s Arrested Development.

In considering Private Ryan, the agency denied complaints filed by the American Family Association, a group based in Tupelo, Miss., that is an active critic of broadcasts it feels violate decency standards.

More than 60 of ABC’s 225 affiliates declined to air the movie on Nov. 11. They said they feared FCC sanctions, even though the movie had appeared on broadcast TV in 2001 and 2002 without any penalty by regulators. Since those airings, the FCC has ruled that the singer Bono’s use of the F-word during an awards show violated indecency regulations.

On Monday, regulators said they had considered context in reaching their decision.

“This film is a critically acclaimed artwork that tells a gritty story,” said FCC Chairman Michael Powell. “The horror of war and the enormous personal sacrifice it draws on cannot be painted in airy pastels.”

Powell said ABC and its affiliates had provided “full and wide disclosure” of the broadcast’s possibly controversial content.