TV censorship in US vs. elsewhere

I recall hearing somewhere that the US is the only industrialized country which doesn’t permit pornography or sexual scenes on broadcast television. Can someone verify and/or provide more info on this? Thanks.

This would require a more specific definition of “pornography.” Nudity is shown sometimes on Japanese TV (usually when showing US-made movies), but any shots of genitalia or pubic hair (even if in a non-sexual situation) get covered over. Interestingly, the ‘no-genitals’ rule also applies to films on video and in theaters.


VERY interestingly, the “no-genitals” rule applies to Japanese pornography as well (simulated rape is ok, but a picture of a penis will corrupt the nation, I guess). I know this because . . . uh, well, I uh, had to do a . . . report on it. Yes, that’ll do nicely.

As for the OP, I don’t know. I’m sure different countries have different standards for what is acceptable, but I know that the U.S. is one of the more active censors (of sex and nudity) around.

The US also has odd standards on homosexuality compared to many other nations- same gender couples are quite common on other nation’s shows, but the US has yet to show a committed same sex couple have a serious kiss.

What is shown on UK television after 9pm never ceases to amaze me. Soft-core porn, full-frontal nudity of both sexes (not with spread legs, but definitely close-ups, especially of men – but never erect), and all sorts of disgusting things you would not want to see: vomiting, dogs pooping, real footage of run-down homes covered in filth, human excrement, and/or the aftermath of violent crime (read: gore), etc. IIRC the only thing censored is explicit drug-use (e.g. injections). I’m not clear on the rules regarding gay sex on tv here. I’ve seen serious kissing, but I’m not sure that gay soft-core porn is shown. Someone native to the UK who watches less American shows than I will probably know.

I work in television in the UK, it’s a Hindi language channel that goes out to UK and USA, and we don’t show even hints of sex. We could get away with it in the UK, but the viewers would complain if someone even showed a bit of shoulder. So in India pornography is an absolute no no. Though they are quite happy to air dead bodies getting dragged through the streets and people getting hanged on the news. In the UK, we’d get taken off the air for this. We broadcast the F-word at 2pm the other day and we didn’t recieve a single complaint - I think swearing, if it’s in dramas where the characters use of swearing is justified, doesn’t bother people like it did ten years ago.

Last month, a Polish TV channel broadcast hardcore porn in the afternoon. The transmission guys use barcodes to identify programmes and someone didn’t key in the number correctly. Instead of a 20 minute childrens programme, a one and a half hour hardcore porno film was broadcast. There are no regulations in Poland so the channel wouldn’t get into trouble. When the transmission controller said to a scheduler “so I’ll take this off, yeah?” (the channel, like so many other East European and Middle Eastern channels is transmitted from London to avoid local language laws), the scheduler actually called a meeting to discuss whether to pull this programme. The meeting took 75 minutes (!!!) and they decided that, yes, the programme should be taken off the air!!! This is absolutely true, and it shows that some countries have no concern whatsoever for restricting what television shows.

It would appear that German and UK TV operate under similar rules. Soft-core porn & full frontal nudity is no problem. As imported movies and series are dubbed, I imagine that offensive language is (or could be) removed without anyone noticing.

Back home in Denmark, attitudes are about the same - the latest hit was a “docu-soap” about a group of strippers. Frontal male/female nudity is broadcast if it can be presented as reporting or documentary, but for some reason porn (even soft) remains in the realm of pay TV.

OTOH, Danish TV doesn’t dub imported material, and neither are words beeped out. Which - among other things - means that when Danes drop or break something, they swear in four-letter English. And we get to see the entire movie on TV :slight_smile:

S. Norman

Just watch Canadian television after 9pm and you’ll see a difference. Our censorship rules aren’t nearly as strict as the U.S.'s I have noticed that the French channels carry the most visually explicit programming here.

I’ve lived in more countries than I care to remember and the general rule is that Americans censor more porn than violence while europeans tend to censor violence rather than nudity or sexuality.

Asians vary wildly in what they allow. Muslim and Communist countries that I have been to are usually strict on sexual content and sometimes they cut out the worst violence. I can’t really comment on Japan since I have never been there, however I have met some Japanese people. My observations were that they were relaxed about unusual sexual desires and such, but actual nudity was almost intrusive to them. But, like I said, I’m no expert on Japan.

— G. Raven

As an American, I can say that the United States is a weird country. No nudity, no F-word or the S-word, but every thing else is allowed. Sex is everywhere, hey my first post here was about why the sex sceens on TV are always in the missonary postion. :slight_smile: I can’t figure out why. People get offended by sexuality on the tube, and complain loudly about it, but it still “sells.” Violence is also touchy, every one is up in arms about how violent content is making for more crime, etc., but people still watch it. While Americans curse the content of the programs, they still watch them. Don’t even get me started about the latest fad of “Reality TV.” Its like people love to hate their favorite form of entertainment. Makes me gland I don’t own a TV.
I saw a cartoon recently in the paper. It showed a man sitting in front of the tude, which was annoucing “Next on Temptation Island.” The man was groaning,“Were is a rolling blackout when you need one.” I’m thinking, turn the $%&*ing thing off!!! My mother’s children, have we forgotten that televisions have an “OFF” button?

I saw Speilberg’s flick, Schelinders (sp) List on tv on prime time in the US as did zillions of other people featuring full frontal nudity of both sexes…

We in the US are getting there.

To paraphrase Marge Simpson.

“Fox turned into a hardcores sex channel so gradually I hardly notice.”

Schindler’s List (note the spelling) was the exception, definitely not the rule.

It also, IIRC, was broadcast without commercial interruptions on broadcast television, which was definitely an exception to the norm.

In the Netherlands, hardly anything is cencored on TV. Lately, I’ve even seen shows late night that could be considered very close to hard porn. No penetrations, but definately erect penii and spread vaginas (if you’ll excuse my graphic terms).

Full frontal nudity? Anytime of day, although it’s usually at night, of course. But this evening, I saw an Eight O’Clock News item on the Berlin film festival, with a clip of one of the movies. Two nekkid people, male and female, with all equipment showing. But it was one of those artsy movies, so I guess it’s OK in that case. :wink:

Morrisons Lament: how would you say Europeans cencor violence? In movies? I can’t say I can think of an example where violence would be cencored.

I can’t speak for the rest of Europe, but I know that in the UK, violence is removed from programs if it’s not required.
I remember seeing a documentary about it. Episodes of Miami Vice were all edited to removed excessive violence.

Yeah, I was thinking of the UK mainly (it’s in europe, no?;)), but it has also been a tendancy in Scandinavian telvision. I think things have loosend up pretty much in countries like Denmark, but I’ve never been there so I couldn’t tell you. Swedish TV has gone all the way in Porn now, so they must be liberal on everything. Not too sure about Norway though, anyone here from Norge?

So basically, it was too much of a generalization on my part to call it a European thing, but it does exist in England and my wager is Ireland isn’t much different.

I lived in Den Haag for a while and I agree with Coldie that there is probably no censorship on Dutch TV, oh how I miss it :smiley:

Smoke a prostitute and screw a joint for me Coldie, “Hop Holland” :wink:

— G. Raven

I think censorship in the UK has become more relaxed in the last decade or so (just watch channel 5!) and although I have no proof, I don’t remember seeing many films where violent scenes had been cut for broadcast. I’m just trying to remember if Reservoir Dogs, when shown on network TV, had the ear removal scene…er, removed.

As for UK (England) vs Ireland censorship, I’d be interested to know if they do have broadly similar rules of censorship; my instinctive feeling is that Irish rules are probably a little more conservative but I really could be (completely) wrong.

On the Irish vs. UK question, I don’t see very much difference.
I know RTE (the Irish state broadcaster) has a policy as regards feature films that it shows the same version as was shown in Irish cinemas.

There’d be little point in Ireland trying to impose more restrictive rules than the UK, as most of Ireland has access to the UK channels anyway.

Well I’m not sure what you mean by “gay soft-core porn” exactly, but several UK shows have been fairly explicit in showing gay sex, the obvious examples being “This Life” and “Queer as Folk”. Do they count?

“This Life” was fairly explicit, showing several sex scenes between Warren and Ferdy (and later Ferdy and Lenny). They didn’t shy away from showing anything - but then again, we saw everyone naked in “This Life”. (Why, hello Egg! How YOU doin’?)

Then, of course, there was “Queer as Folk”, which showed a fair amount of gay sex, especially in the first episode. No penises on view, if I remember correctly, but we saw oral and anal sex and the odd bit of rimming, all about as explicit as you can get without close-ups of genitalia.

I can’t imagine that being shown on US television, so I’m wondering - how explicit is the US version of Queer as Folk? Has anyone seen both and like to compare?

I’m also curious to know how QAF fared on Australian television. Did anyone see it? (“This Life” appeared to emerge uncut.)

Channel 4 made extensive cuts to “Angel” - several minutes in some case - because of its violent content. It made many a scene unfathomable. However this was mainly due to its airing time of 6 P.M., whereas in the US it’s aired at (I think) 10 P.M. - a far more appropriate time for a show of its type. The Independent Television Commission (ITC) received numerous complaints about the show, and decided that “Angel” was not appropriate for 6 P.M. Channel 4 moved the show to 11 P.M. and broadcoast the remaining episodes of the season uncut.

So what is the General Question that is still on the table?