You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Saving Pvt. *#@! Ryan

Nervous stations retreat from airing pic

Here are some late election returns: Local stations are running scared on program content.

So while “Saving Private Ryan” got strong ratings in its initial airing, ABC affils repping more than 35% of the country have told the net they won’t air tonight’s encore broadcast of Steven Spielberg’s D-Day epic.

The scheduled preemptions come even though most, if not all, of the stations now balking at running Steven Spielberg’s D-Day epic have aired it in the past. Pic, which contains more than three dozen utterances of the word “fuck,” must air its unedited form, as per ABC’s license agreement with DreamWorks.

But with the FCC and Congress threatening blockbuster fines for stations that air indecent material before 10 p.m., a slew of station groups have told ABC they don’t want to take a chance on viewers complaining to the FCC. The preemptions come even though in 2002, the FCC — responding to a complaint about the pic from activist Donald Wildmon — ruled “Saving Private Ryan” wasn’t indecent.

ABC’s affiliate relations department was said to be working overtime to get some stations back on board. Industry insiders suggested several major station groups have ordered their affils not to air “Ryan,” but that some local stations are balking at the group decision. As a result, it’s possible the number of preemptions will ultimately fall below the 35% level.

“Ryan” did boffo Nielsen numbers when it bowed on ABC in November 2001, and it also did well in 2002. With so many preemptions, ABC’s already low Thursday ratings could fall off a cliff, hurting the net during the all-important November sweeps.

While affils from some stations say they’re not sure they can risk airing “Ryan” in the current political environment, others, including Pappas-owned KHGI in Lincoln, Neb., argue preempting the pic is a public service.

“Pappas has decided that the interests of the viewers of KHGI, in the Lincoln-Hastings-Kearney, Neb., market, are best served by preempting this program,” read a statement released by the company. “Pappas Telecasting and its management have been in the forefront of regulatory efforts to eliminate profanity, indecency and gratuitous violence from network programming, particularly during times when children may be watching. Moreover, as is evidenced by recent decisions of the Federal Communications Commission, stations that air network programming with indecent or profane content are subject to significant fines and the threat of license revocation.”

But Ray Cole, prexy of Citadel Communications, said he pulled “Ryan” from his three ABC stations in Iowa and Nebraska because of fear of fines.

“Under strict interpretation of the rules, we can’t run that programming before 10 p.m.,” Cole told the Associated Press. “We have attempted to get an advanced waiver from the FCC and, remarkably to me, they are not willing to do so.”

While the stations didn’t get any complaints about “Ryan” the last two times it aired, Cole cited Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl peepshow and last week’s election as reasons for keeping “Ryan” off the air.

“We’re just coming off an election where moral issues were cited as a reason by people voting one way or another and, in my opinion, the commissioners are fearful of the new Congress,” Cole said.

Ironically, the Parents Television Council, a conservative group that regularly decries so-called “indecent” material on TV, said it’s in favor of ABC airing “Ryan” as is.

“Context is everything,” PTC topper Brent Bozell said in a statement. “We agreed with the FCC on its ruling that the airing of ‘Schindler’s List’ on television was not indecent and we feel that ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is in the same category. In both films, the content is not meant to shock, nor is it gratuitous.”

ABC declined to comment on the affil defections, instead issuing a statement noting the pic will carry numerous parental advisories. Sen. John McCain also taped a new introduction to the movie.

Alphabet execs had tried to avoid a brouhaha over “Ryan.”

Pic was set to air in May, around Memorial Day. But after the Jackson incident, ABC execs decided to push the encore airing to November — after the election.

DreamWorks marketing exec Marvin Levy said the studio has always been upfront about the fact that “Ryan” may not be appropriate for younger viewers.

“It’s always been an R-rated movie, and it’s up to parents to decide whether they want their younger generation to watch,” he said. “But it’s a shame if they don’t even have the opportunity to make that choice. It could be part of the overreaction that’s going on.”

More Film

  • Oscars Oscar Academy Awards Placeholder

    Oscar Nominations 2019: The Complete List (Updating Live)

    Oscar nominations for the 91st annual Academy Awards will be announced Tuesday morning from the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, Calif. Academy president John Bailey will be joined by “The Big Short” actor Kumail Nanjiani and “Black-ish” star Tracee Ellis Ross to reveal the nominees in 24 categories. Frontrunners for this year’s nominations include [...]

  • Studiocanal Looking for U.K. MD, Elizabeth

    Studiocanal Looks for New U.K. MD After Elizabeth Trotman's Move Falls Through

    Studiocanal is resuming its search for a U.K. managing director after Elizabeth Trotman was forced to pull out from the role owing to visa issues, Variety has confirmed. Trotman was named U.K. MD last October, filling the position vacated by Danny Perkins, who is setting up his own business. Trotman was expected to switch over [...]

  • Zentropa, REinvent, TrustNordisk launch VOD service

    NutAlone Euro Streamer Plans to Fill Cracks in Market (EXCLUSIVE)

    Scandi brands Zentropa, REinvent and TrustNordisk are launching NutAlone, a new streamer of European films and TV dramas. Rikke Ennis, CEO of Copenhagen-based packaging, sales and financing company REInvent Studios, has spent the last couple of years conceptualizing NutAlone with her former TrustNordisk colleagues and Zentropa CEO Anders Kjærhauge. Their idea was to dust off [...]

  • Mediapro US, Televisa Strike Co-Production Alliance

    NATPE: Mediapro, Televisa Strike Co-Production Alliance (EXCLUSIVE)

    MIAMI —  Mediapro, one of Europe’s biggest independent TV groups, and Mexican TV giant Televisa, have inked a multi-year production alliance to co-develop and co-produce a minimum of three drama series aimed at fueling Televisa’s premium programming and output for Mexico and the U.S. but also targeted at worldwide markets. Linking two of the most [...]

  • Oscar OScars Placeholder

    How to Watch Oscar Nominations Live Online

    The 91st Academy Awards may be hostless, but its nominations will be led by Kumail Nanjiani of “The Big Short” and Tracee Ellis Ross from ABC’s “Black-ish.” The two actors will announce the nominees live beginning at 5:20 a.m. PT/8:20 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Jan 22. All 24 Oscar categories will be announced in a [...]

  • Luca Guadagnino Teams With Valentino on

    Luca Guadagnino Teams With Valentino Designer on Short Film Starring Julianne Moore (EXCLUSIVE)

    Luca Guadagnino has teamed up with Italian designer Pierpaolo Piccioli, creative director of the Valentino fashion house, to make a short movie fusing the aesthetics of film and haute couture and featuring an A-list cast comprising Julianne Moore, Kyle MacLachlan, Marthe Keller, KiKi Layne, Mia Goth and Alba Rohrwacher. The 35-minute film, portraying different chapters [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content