YouTube – A Viable End Run of FCC Indecency Rules?

by on December 22, 2006 · 2 comments

I’d like to call out an interesting development from the past week that is a great example of how the Internet can do an end run around traditional regulation–in this case, federal broadcast indecency rules.

As described very well in this NY Times article in yesterday’s Arts section, Saturday Night Live had a decently funny skit (my friends have thought it to be either hilarious or plain stupid) involving a parody of two boy band singers, one played by Justin Timberlake. The skit was called “Special Treat in a Box” and involved a song about giving a holiday present to their girlfriends–their male anatomy, wrapped up in a box.

Over the air, NBC had to bleep out the 16 references to the anatomy (think other name for Richard)–but, SNL simultaneously released an uncensored version that made its way to YouTube. Over 2 million people had viewed it on YouTube alone, according to the article.

Lorne Michaels, SNL’s producer, predicted that other shows might more actively offer material online that isn’t suitable for prime-time broadcast. But in a telling state of the regulatory climate, and its chilling effect on the distribution of content (the easily offended think this is a good thing), according to the article:

[Michaels] cautioned in an interview that the strategy of treating Internet users to the equivalent of an authorized “director’s cut” of his late-night show “will be the exception” going forward.

Don’t want to piss off anyone with power in Washington, DC, or else Internet content could one day receive a not-so-special regulatory treat from the FCC.

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