SBD/Issue 20/Sports Media

Delay Of Game: Reax Around NBC’s 5-Second Delay For NASCAR

FCC Inquiring Into
Earnhardt Jr. Incident

NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s expletive during his post-race interview on NBC last Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway is being reviewed by the FCC for “possible indecency violations,” according to BLOOMBERG NEWS’ Neil Roland. FCC spokesperson David Fiske: “We’ve gotten a few dozen e-mail letters of concern. We’ll subject them to the normal review procedures” (BLOOMBERG NEWS 10/7).

NECESSARY STEP: Following Earnhardt Jr.’s interview last Sunday, NBC has decided to use a five-second delay for NASCAR broadcasts. NASCAR VP/Broadcasting Dick Glover said, “NBC deems this an appropriate step, however unfortunate, and we support them. They came to the conclusion that in this environment, additional safeguards are necessary.” NBC Universal Sports Chair Dick Ebersol said, “The rules have been interpreted in one way for a long time, but primarily due to the incident at the Super Bowl, the interpretation language has been broadened. Clearly, 2004 has become a year in which you risk a lot if you’re not completely in compliance.” Ebersol said if a stronger expletive was used this Sunday and NBC imposed no delay, “I can’t say I would have fulfilled my responsibility as a broadcaster over the public airwaves” (N.Y. TIMES, 10/8).

LOVE IT LIVE: But CBS Sports President Sean McManus said, “We still believe live sports should be carried live and aren’t planning any delays of our live sporting events.” Fox Sports Chair David Hill added, “For decades, television has been improving technology for the sole reason of bringing viewers at home an experience that is as close to being live at the stadium as humanly possible. We think that’s the way it should be.” In N.Y. Richard Sandomir notes TNT as a cable net is unregulated by the FCC, and its races will remain delay-free. Turner Sports President David Levy supports NBC’s decision, but said TNT will not use a delay. Levy: “If something happens we deem inappropriate, we’ll change” (N.Y. TIMES, 10/8). TV consultant and former NBC Sports VP Mike Trager said, “Forcing the networks to go to delays takes the spontaneity out of [live sports] and doesn’t make any real common sense, but the networks are going to protect themselves” (WASHINGTON POST, 10/8).

REAX: In St. Petersburg, John Cotey writes sarcastically, “Thankfully, to save children and keep our virgin ears from such an awful word, NBC is coming to our rescue” (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 10/8). But in Tampa, Rick Harmon writes, “It’s not NBC’s job to control NASCAR’s product. But it is NBC’s job to control what its viewers hear. The five-second delay isn’t going to make any difference. The only way anyone would know about the delay is when someone says something they shouldn’t –- and that’s a good thing” (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 10/8). Nextel Cup driver Casey Mears said, “It’ll be better for NASCAR to have more control. ... The government cracked down [after the Super Bowl incident], so I think NBC gets penalized, NASCAR gets penalized, so they have to protect against all that” (ORLANDO SENTINEL,10/8).

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