BYU professor argues Saturday Night Live not censored

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Tyler Sorensen watches Fox News after school. Sorensen said he leans more toward the GOP and prefers censorship of language and vulgarity on television. (Justin Elsbury)

WRAL-TV, a local television station in Raleigh, North Carolina, recently censored nine different parts of a Saturday Night Live episode hosted by Dave Chappelle, according to the Complex website.

Several people were in uproar about the incident, believing the local station censored parts of the episode related to Donald Trump. The station allegedly cut out Chappelle’s anecdote of staying at a Trump-owned hotel and everything beyond that point, according to the website.

Director of the BYU School of Communications Ed Carter felt WRAL-TV did not over-step its boundaries censoring certain parts of the episode.

“I think the word censorship is probably too strong here. It’s not the government that’s doing it. This was a private company that owns a broadcast station,” Carter said. “They have the right to air whatever they want to air.”

Carter defined censorship as the government preventing something from getting in the marketplace of ideas or punishing somebody for expressing a viewpoint. He explained people in Raleigh could go online to see the skits if they wanted to.

“The government’s not keeping that out of the marketplace. It’s there for people who want to access it,” Carter said.

Carter also said people could argue about whether the station should have cut the audio during certain parts of the skit. He said people may argue that stations should leave the decision of what is appropriate to watch to the viewers.

Many people feared Donald Trump’s election led to the censorship of these skits, according to the Complex website. Carter said the FCC was more strict regulating content under President Bush than it has been the past eight years under President Obama. He said it remains to be seen whether another Republican president will lead to heavier FCC regulation.

“We have a president elect who hasn’t been shy about using profanity and vulgarity on TV,” Carter said. “Would he be inclined to order the FCC to regulate content issues? Who knows?”

Carter said Republicans generally prefer more regulation of the content of the media while Democrats prefer less regulation.

BYU statistics freshman Brigham Villanueva is a member of the BYU College Democrats. He said the station went too far and shouldn’t have cut the audio for these skits.

“I get how swearing or saying (vulgar things) can detract from the Spirit, but (the skits) still have an argument,” Villanueva said. “Honestly, I would want to hear it.”

BYU exercise science senior Tyler Sorensen said he leans more toward the GOP than the Democratic Party. He said he felt WRAL-TV made the right decision. He said he personally does not want to here vulgar language on broadcast television.

“Realistically I think more people think it’s more funny when they hear (comedians curse), but there are people who don’t want to hear (swear words), like me,” Sorenson said.

Villanueva said he fears Trump’s election will lead to more censorship of broadcast television from the government.

“To be completely honest it makes me feel very unsafe,” Villanueva said. “One thing that terrified me is that he had an open season on journalists, saying ‘Oh the things they are saying aren’t true.'”

Sorenson said he thinks the current FCC regulation of broadcast television is fine.

“I do not have a problem with how they are doing their censorship, from what I have seen on television,” Sorensen said.

WRAL-TV stated it will review its policies and procedures after the criticism it received for cutting the audio on Saturday Night Live, according to the Fox News website.

Carter said this review will include an internal assessment of whether the employee who cut the audio did the right thing. He does not think this assessment will include any punishment. Carter said broadcast operators have a 10 second delay to cut audio.

“My opinion is that people should go easy on the station. If this was the best editorial judgement they used, then great,” Carter said.

Carter also said people need to make room for variety in this country.

“There are probably hundreds of stations around the country that played Saturday Night Live,” Carter said. “If one of them decided to exercise editorial judgement, I don’t think people should freak out about that.”

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