America's ABC television network may introduce a five-second delay in its Oscars broadcast later this month, so stars behaving badly can be edited or bleeped out. It comes in the wake of the country's puritanical lather over Janet Jackson's brief breast exposure during Sunday's Super Bowl football game.
A report in yesterday's Variety magazine said ABC executives had approached the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with the idea and seem determined to run with it; a break with Oscar tradition which has always relied on Hollywood's elite to behave like ladies and gentlemen, at least for one night.
US networks are under pressure from affiliates, advertisers and self-appointed conservative guardians of public decency following a string of high-profile stunts and slips of the tongue. Bono using the f-word during last year's Golden Globes andMadonna and Britney Spears kissed at the recent MTV music video awards, as did Madonna and Christina Aguilera.
Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction", as Justin Timberlake, with whom she was performing, called it prompted the Federal Communications Commission to order an investigation.
Several commentators noted that the Bush administration was treating a naked breast with far greater urgency than the inquiries into 11 September 2001 and Iraq's elusive weapons of mass destruction.
Some insiders wonder whether ABC's Oscars concern also has a political dimension. Would something like Michael Moore's scabrous anti-war outburst last year cause ABC executives to hit the profanity button? Bruce Davis, the Academy's executive director, said: "We don't want that kind of censorship."