Robert De Niro got a standing ovation at the Tony Awards for shouting “F— Trump” from the stage to the crowd at Radio City Music Hall. But viewers at home didn’t hear the expletive thanks to the 10-second delay CBS had on the live telecast and the quick reflexes of a CBS Program Practices executive monitoring the show back at the CBS Broadcast Center in New York.
CBS confirmed that De Niro went off script in his remarks as he took the stage to introduce Bruce Springsteen’s performance on the Tony telecast. The CBS Program Practices executive monitoring the show has the ability to push a delete button to drop audio entirely from the telecast.
“Mr. De Niro’s comments were unscripted and unexpected. The offensive language was deleted from the broadcast,” CBS said in a statement.
The issue of curse words uttered on live TV has become an increasing headache for broadcast networks, whose airwaves are policed by the FCC during the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
CBS, Fox, ABC, and NBC in recent years have waged long-running legal battles over FCC sanctions for what are known in commission-speak as “fleeting expletives” that come up unexpectedly in live TV, particularly in coverage of sporting events and awards shows. The threat of FCC fines and advertiser concerns about the programming environment have pushed more networks to put live events on a telecast delay of five seconds or more.