NBCUniversal‘s cable news network said this month that it will offer “in-depth, continuing coverage” of George Zimmerman’s murder trial, including going live “as news warrants.” This morning’s opening arguments indeed were live on MSNBC — and the network ended up having to apologize for it. No delay was in place as prosecutor John Guy began with a pointed quote from the defendant: “F—ing punks. These assholes always get away.” Chuck Todd, host of MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown and NBC News‘ chief White House correspondent, immediately apologized for the profanity and vowed that the network would deploy a delay going forward. But at least one other uncensored f-word also aired live. This is exactly the kind of scenario NBCU execs had in mind when they asked the FCC last week to consider revamping its policies on broadcast indecency.
“The Commission should exempt news, public affairs programming, and live sports from any indecency enforcement because the risks of unnecessarily treading on broadcasters’ free speech rights in those contexts are too great,” NBCU urged in its filing with the FCC last week. “All news and public affairs programming, live or taped, should be exempt because any expletives, due to the nature of the programming, would likely be fleeting, unanticipated, or unintentional and because the subject matter is news and should be treated with particular sensitivity. Live sports should also be exempt, again because expletives, due to the nature of the programming, would likely be fleeting, unanticipated, or unintentional.”