WASHINGTON — Rep. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) blasted NBC on Tuesday for airing a slightly edited version of Academy Award winning “Schindler’s List,” which he said brought television “to an all-time low with full frontal nudity, violence and profanity.”
Coburn said NBC’s decision to air “Schindler’s List,” which was watched by 65 million people Sunday night, “should outrage parents and decent-minded individuals everywhere.”
The movie tells the story of Oskar Schindler, who saved more than 1,000 Jews from extermination in Nazi death camps by putting them to work in his factory and later moving them by train to his hometown in Czechoslovakia. It has been widely used in schools to teach students about the horrors of the Holocaust during which 6 million Jews were put to death at the hands of Nazis. “Schindler’s List” won seven Oscars, including best picture and a best director statue for helmer Steven Spielberg.
“I just wonder if Congressman Coburn is aware that there was a Holocaust; that millions of people died; and it’s not something anybody should ever forget,” said a shocked NBC West Coast prexy Don Olhmeyer, adding, “NBC is extremely proud of its presentation of this unique award- winning film.”
The airing of “Schindler’s List” has been praised by others in Washington, including FCC chairman Reed Hundt, who congratulated NBC Monday. In a speech to the National Assn. of Broadcasters, Hundt said, “NBC’s uninterrupted broadcast of ‘Schindler’s List’ last night showed us again the power and glory of broadcast TV.”
But Coburn apparently disagreed, saying, “I cringe when I realize that there were children all across this nation watching this program. They were exposed to the violence of multiple gunshot head wounds, vile language, full frontal nudity and irresponsible sexual activity.”
“We think that Congressman Coburn’s statement should send a chill through every intelligent and fair- minded person in America,” Ohlmeyer said Tuesday. “This is exactly what we find frightening about the ‘helpful hand’ of the government interfering with television programming decisions.”
Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.) called Coburn’s statement “shocking.” “To equate the nudity of Holocaust victims in the concentration camp with any sexual connotations is outrageous and offensive,” said D’Amato.
“Schindler’s List” was one of the first programs to be tagged with the TV-M rating, which the television industry’s new content code uses for adult-oriented programming.
But Coburn suggested the TV-M rating was used as a shield by NBC to air a movie that he considered to be vulgar. Of the rating system, Coburn said, it “only encourages the airing of more sex and violence” on television.
Coburn apparently is already feeling the heat. In a statement released late Tuesday, he stated, ” ‘Schindler’s List’ was an excellent and informative program that should not have been aired on a network” where it was viewed by kids.
Last year, Coburn introduced an amendment that would have killed the provision of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that urged the industry to create a voluntary rating system.
Although he opposed the V-chip a year ago, he is scheduled to appear with Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) at a press conference today to announce his support for legislation that calls on the industry to implement a tougher content-based code.
The bill will be the House version of legislation already introduced in the Senate by Sen. Ernest Hollings. The measure would effectively ban violent programming between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. unless the program has a content-based label.
Coburn, Markey and others say the television industry’s age-based system does not provide parents with enough information about specific shows.
There are at least two other press conferences scheduled today on Capitol Hill to criticize the ratings system. Coburn is the only member of Congress who publicly attacked NBC for airing “Schindler’s List.” Congress will hold its first hearing on the new rating system Thursday.