Off Beat

Have You Ever Been Bleeped in Your Bleep?

Last week just may have marked the first time a public television program was pimped on Entertainment Tonight. The occasion for this cross-cultural programming: "American Porn," a Frontline documentary about the sex industry.

The Wednesday-night ET segment featured repeated shots of a young woman's dress provocatively dropping around her ankles. But viewers who flipped over to KTCA-TV (Channel 2) the following night in search of a little publicly supported, commercial-free titillation were surely disappointed. Not only did the documentary focus on the booming business and regulatory oversight of Big Porn, but most of the naughty words and naked bodies the program did depict were censored, with black bars and bleeps replacing booty and bad language.

The editorial decision to air an edited version of the documentary was made by officials at Twin Cities Public Television (TPT). Frontline provided affiliates with two versions of the program and left it up to them to decide which to air. (Both versions masked full frontal nudity.)

Chris Krueger, the station's vice president for marketing, says the decision was not made lightly. "We really thought about it and tried to figure out what would make the best presentation," Krueger says. Ultimately, station officials concluded that the racier material "would be distracting from the point of the story, which is that this is a burgeoning industry that has a lot of big-business support," she adds.

TPT was not alone in opting for the PG-rated version. According to Erin Martin Kane, communications manager for Frontline, roughly half of the 40 biggest television markets aired the edited show. Some stations even went so far as to remove the segment from prime time. In Nashville, for example, "American Porn" wasn't shown until midnight.

If you prefer your public TV unexpurgated (and if you're patient with video downloads), you can point your Web browser to pbs.org and watch the program complete with naughty bits. --By Paul Demko

 
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