Why Big Brother After Dark is censored on TVGN

Viewers tuning in to the first episode of Big Brother After Dark in its new TVGN home last night discovered that the broadcast of select live feeds wasn’t uncensored, like it was when Showtime aired it. Instead, words–and sometimes entire phrases–were censored. That was not the cast for Canada’s broadcast of the show on Slice.

I asked TVGN why the feeds were censored, and what else, if anything, would be cut from the live broadcast. In its response, the network admits to being “too trigger happy” on the first broadcast, and promises to do better censoring individual words so sentences or conversations are still comprehensible, but says nine words and nudity will be cut from the show.

As a preface, it’s worth noting that, as a cable network, TVGN is not bound by FCC content rules regarding indecent and profane content, which includes bad language, because they only apply to broadcasters who use public airwaves; however, most cable networks adopt similar standards because of their advertisers and/or viewers.

In addition, the FCC allows for something known as “safe harbor”: after 10 p.m, “a station may air indecent and/or profane material,” according to the FCC, although stations cannot broadcast obscene material, defined as content that is “not protected by the First Amendment.”

I’ve asked for clarification about this response’s reference to “late night TV standards” and “rules in basic cable,” and will update when I receive that. In the meantime, here’s TVGN’s response, in part:

“…TVGN isn’t going to wholesale edit out anything that’s happening in the house such that fans miss any storylines or context for the interactions between the house guests. The camera set-up and what’s being captured is the same as in previous seasons.

Unfortunately, we do need to comply with late night TV standards. We wish we didn’t have to, but there are rules in basic cable for language, nudity and violence. But, we are pushing the envelope as much as we can — for example, there are only nine words that we have to drop. Obviously, the F-Bomb is one of those words, and that seems to fly around a lot on ‘After Dark.’

Last night was our first broadcast of ‘After Dark’ on TVGN, and we must admit that our guy in the control room got a little too trigger happy with the audio-dropping. It was our first night on-air and we agree that we need to get better so that the ability to hear the conversation isn’t affected. Please tell your readers to tune-in again tonight and let us know how we’re doing.

Besides only audio-dropping nine words and keeping our eye out for nudity, we promise the same show BBAD fans have always enjoyed. Finally, we also noticed a lot of complaints that BBAD on TVGN is not in HD. We want fans to know that BBAD has never been broadcast in HD, so our airing is the same as in previous seasons.”

Update: TVGN says that its references to “late night TV standards” and “rules in basic cable” refer “to the standard restrictions adopted by similar general entertainment channels.” In other words, it’s a voluntary standard rather than one required by law.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.