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November 26, 2014

ABC to Reevaluate Live Performance Policy After Adam Lambert Controversy

by Gary Susman, posted Dec 1st 2009 3:30PM
Rest easy, shielders of the horrified eyes of America's children. There will be no more scandalous Adam Lambert-type live performances, at least not on ABC.

Reuters reports that, in response to Lambert's notorious number on Nov. 22's American Music Awards, ABC is reviewing its live performance policy and will force future live performers to sign contracts assuring the network that they won't spring any surprises during live broadcasts that ABC censors haven't vetted during rehearsals.

"We certainly don't want to suppress artistry at any level," Disney/ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney told Reuters on Monday, "but we also have to be very cognizant of who our audience is." Sweeney did not say what measures would be taken to enforce such no-spontaneity contracts. (Will they sue overly exuberant performers? Dock their pay? Hold their fees in escrow until the FCC decides whether or not to levy an indecency fine?)Rest easy, shielders of the horrified eyes of America's children. There will be no more scandalous Adam Lambert-type live performances, at least not on ABC.

Reuters reports that, in response to Lambert's notorious number on Nov. 22's American Music Awards, ABC is reviewing its live performance policy and will force future live performers to sign contracts assuring the network that they won't spring any surprises during live broadcasts that ABC censors haven't vetted during rehearsals.

"We certainly don't want to suppress artistry at any level," Disney/ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney told Reuters on Monday, "but we also have to be very cognizant of who our audience is." Sweeney did not say what measures would be taken to enforce such no-spontaneity contracts. (Will they sue overly exuberant performers? Dock their pay? Hold their fees in escrow until the FCC decides whether or not to levy an indecency fine?)

Lambert's performance has been a source of aggravation for ABC since the moment it aired. Although the network censored his man-on-man antics during the awards ceremony's Pacific time zone feed, it still received 1,500 complaints from viewers nationwide. ABC quickly scrapped Lambert's scheduled live performance on 'Good Morning America,' prompting cries of censorship and homophobia. CBS' rival morning program 'The Early Show' then snapped up Lambert for a live gig, though it ran into its own double-standard problem when, during a news segment putting the controversy in context, it censored footage of Lambert's same-sex kiss from the AMAs while showing uncensored the Britney Spears-Madonna kiss from the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards.

On Friday, ABC announced an upcoming 'GMA' performance by Chris Brown, in conjunction with an interview with 'GMA''s Robin Roberts, in which Brown would finally address his beating of ex-girlfriend Rihanna. Although ABC claimed it had booked Brown's appearance before the Lambert controversy arose (Brown had supposedly wanted to respond to ABC's recent Diane Sawyer interview of Rihanna), ABC was still accused of hypocrisy, and not just by outsiders. "The network is giving a mixed message -- that it doesn't trust someone who shocked with an unpredictable show and a gay kiss, but then it is happy to go ahead with Chris Brown, who was convicted of felony assault," an ABC insider told the New York Post.

On Monday, Sweeney defended 'GMA''s decision to disinvite Lambert, telling Reuters, "We really had to take the decision very seriously and found that his performance was very unpredictable at night and [we] didn't know what to expect in the morning." Besides, she said, a lot of children watch the morning show.

That still doesn't justify the apparent double standard regarding Lambert and Brown, and indeed, ABC seems to have taken criticism over the Brown concert booking to heart. According to the Post, the network has now decided not to let Brown sing either. The Post's report did not cite a reason for the decision, so it's not clear whether ABC was responding to criticism, or whether there's any connection with the new live performance review policy that Sweeney mentioned.

Roberts' interview with Brown will still air on Dec. 11 -- in prime time, on '20/20,' not on 'GMA.' That seems fair, given that Rihanna's interview also got a primetime airing. Of course, it also gives ABC the opportunity for a bigger ratings payoff than a morning slot would have (Rihanna's '20/20' interview drew 9 million viewers). Plus, '20/20' airs at 10PM. So there probably won't be too many children watching.

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