28.11.03

Censoring Scripts - are broadcasters right to edit out artistic licence?

Former US President Ronald Reagan made many a controversial gaffe while in office but showing these in a docudrama about his life and love with Nancy proved too much for the self-censors at US broadcaster CBS.

Robert Ackerman's film was meant to show the human side of the Reagans and had been scheduled to run as a TV movie. However CBS bosses took their red pens to the script and recut the movie in a manner that Ackerman felt made it incoherent.

At the centre of the controversy was Reagan's character made a reference to AIDS along the lines of 'they that live in sin shall die in sin'. Outrageous yes, but if that was the 'human side' Ackerman was trying to portray then why edit it out?

CBS were concerned about the accuracy of the movie and in the end pulled it. Whether they just wanted it edited their way or had legitimate concerns about accuracy, it appears that networks and Hollywood studios alike will exert their final say when not happy with what's been produced.

The Reagans has now found a home on pay to view cable tv channel 'Showtime'. The offending line on AIDS has been removed.

So are broadcasters unreasonably suppressing the artistic endeavours of independent directors and producers? or, given the fact its a commercial game, are they merely pre-censoring on the basis of what they think their viewers will want to see?

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