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In the United States, Standards and Practices (also referred to as Broadcast Standards and Practices) is the name traditionally given to the department at a television network which is responsible for the moral, ethical, and legal implications of the program that network airs. Standards and Practices also ensures fairness on televised game shows, in which they are the adjunct to the judges at the production company level. They also have the power to reprimand and to recommend the termination of television network stars and employees for violations of standards and practices.
Examples of intervention
- The Standards and Practices department of NBC censored one of Jack Paar's jokes on the February 10, 1960, episode of The Tonight Show.
An English lady is visiting Switzerland. She asks about the location of the "W.C." The Swiss, thinking she is referring to the "Wayside Chapel", leaves her a note that said (in part) "the W.C. is situated nine miles from the room that you will occupy... It is capable of holding about 229 people and it is only open on Sunday and Thursday... It may interest you to know that my daughter was married in the W.C. and it was there that she met her husband... I shall be delighted to reserve the best seat for you, if you wish, where you will be seen by everyone."
Paar was so very taken aback by the network's decision to censor the joke, he walked off the live show the very next day. As he left his desk in the middle of the program, he said, "I am leaving The Tonight Show. There must be a better way of, uh, making a living than this." Paar reappeared on March 7, 1960, strolled on stage, struck a pose, and said, "As I was saying before I was interrupted..." After the audience erupted in applause, Paar continued, "When I walked off, I said there must be a better way of making a living. Well, I've looked... and there isn't." He then went on to explain his departure with typical frankness: "Leaving the show was a childish and perhaps emotional thing. I have been guilty of such action in the past and will perhaps be again. I'm totally unable to hide what I feel. It is not an asset in show business, but I shall do the best I can to amuse and entertain you and let other people speak freely, as I have in the past."
- Episode 97 of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) was unaired in the United States until 2015 due to pressures from Fox Broadcast & Standards (although 4Kids Entertainment leased the time from the network for their FoxBox block and aired the series, it still had to meet Fox's broadcast standards). On the official TMNT website, Lloyd Goldfine states:
The final edited and mixed version of the notorious 'Insane in the Membrane' was deemed unsuitable for air by Fox Broadcast Standards and Practices. Apparently, in between the time the episode was written, storyboarded, animated and edited (all stages approved by Fox BS&P), and the time the show was mixed for air, there was a change of personnel in the Fox BS&P offices, and no one involved in the original approvals was still employed at Fox. Upon seeing the episode, they were said to be 'horrified' and that there was no way they could air the episode. I'm not sure I disagree with them—had there been BS&P comments earlier in the process, we certainly would have handled the show differently. But as it was approved at every stage, we went full steam ahead. In the end, I was told it was bad judgment on my part... so there you have it. I believe this episode will eventually be available, but plans have not been finalized.
The episode was finally aired on August 2nd, 2015 in the United States following the purchase of the franchise by ViacomCBS.
- The final three episodes of the first season of Moral Orel were held back for various amounts of time by Standards and Practices due to being too dark and over the top sexually crude even for Adult Swim, which airs many shows rated TV-MA. Another episode entitled "God's Chef" was delayed for months before the Adult Swim network was able to show it. It has since been released uncensored along with the rest of season 1 and part of season 2 on DVD.
- Adult Swim programming director Kim Manning revealed in the network's now defunct online message boards that Adult Swim inquired into airing Elfen Lied in April 2006 but was rejected by its Standards and Practices department because the series contained graphic violence and nudity. The only way the department would approve its airing was to have it extensively edited, so the network ultimately decided not to broadcast at the expense of altering the original work at such a level. Manning stated in the same post that this was also the case with Gantz.
- X-Men: The Animated Series was very heavily influenced by BS&P. Unlike the comic book, characters were rarely ever in any danger and characters almost never hit each other directly.
- The CGI series ReBoot was heavily censored by ABC during its two-season run on the network. The network announced the show would be canceled after its second season after it was purchased by The Walt Disney Company, which would make way for a schedule of all Disney-produced series. The writers wrote scripts for episodes that mocked ABC's S&P department due to it being canceled, including the insertion of unnoticed profanity within a stream of binary numbers. ReBoot went on to produce another successful season and two made-for-TV movies on other networks which had less strict S&P departments and content standards.
Game show incidents
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Resulting from the 1950s quiz show scandals, game shows have been closely monitored by network standards and practices departments for possible irregularities. When an incident occurs, the most common resolution is to permit the contestant to appear on the game again at a later date.
The Price Is Right
On rare occasions, contestants who have lost games because of procedural irregularities have been awarded the prizes. Irregularities have occurred when either the prize descriptions or prices displayed for the item in question have been incorrect, mechanical errors/malfunctions with certain pricing game props, or administrative errors by models or the host (such as a misheard bid, models not doing what the contestant requested). When such an error occurs, the contestant is awarded any prizes in question. If the error is discovered before the ensuing Showcase Showdown (on hour shows), the host informs the contestant upon returning from commercial or before the Showdown, and the contestant is re-seeded for the Showcase Showdown based on the additional winnings. If the error is discovered after the ensuing Showcase Showdown, either a disclaimer appears or is read by the announcer during the closing credits of the show.
If a contestant is discovered to be ineligible, the ineligible contestant will forfeit all prizes, and likewise a disclaimer appears or a statement is read by the announcer at the end of the show. If the ineligible contestant is found to have won a One Bid, the contestants on Contestants' Row at the time the ineligible contestant was playing and did not win a One Bid are entitled to return to the show immediately once the infraction is discovered, per game show regulations, as their appearance was compromised by an ineligible contestant, pursuant to all game show regulations. The ten-year rule (in which a contestant that gets called up on stage during the show may return if their last appearance on the show was at least 10 years to the day of airing) imposed in 2007 will not be in effect if a contestant lost a One Bid to an ineligible contestant and did not win a further One Bid during that episode.
One of the contestants on the original September 6, 1972 episode (the third show overall) was the common-law wife of a cameraman, and therefore ineligible to appear on any CBS game show. The episode never aired, but the other winners kept their prizes (a replacement show was taped and aired in its place).
In a playing of Plinko taped July 22, 2008, a prop official forgot to remove a fishing line used in the taping of a previous promotion for the official Ludia video game (which guided the chip into a confined pattern leading into the $10,000 channel) before having it readied for game play. A contestant won $30,000 before the mistake was discovered by Associate Producer Adam Sandler (who is now the show's lead producer; not to be confused with the actor). The game was repaired by having the line removed, and the contestant started at $0. The contestant was allowed to keep the $30,000 because of the violation of procedure, plus the money won during the actual game; however, the $30,000 did not count towards the contestant's cumulative winnings on the show.
During a September 22, 2008 taping, contestant Terry Kneiss made a perfect Showcase bid. CBS Standards and Practices, host Drew Carey, and producer Kathy Greco became highly suspicious that another party in the studio audience had supplied Kneiss with the bid, which then resulted in a stop down as an investigation took place. Although the contestant was ultimately awarded the prizes, the show air date was moved back from its original schedule. As a result of the incident, the show changed its practice regarding prizes, adding up to 30 new prizes which began appearing each taping week. Carey wrote on his blog before the 2009 season premiere that with so few prizes being offered, "It was possible, if one wanted, to watch the show for a while and memorize the price of almost every prize we offered." The show wanted to prevent a situation similar to a 1984 Press Your Luck incident where a contestant memorized the light pattern to win where the contestant could find the top dollar space that would not hold a penalty space.
Since 2009, CBS Standards and Practices also requires a disclaimer regarding the business interest of host Drew Carey to be mentioned any time a prize features game tickets featuring the Seattle Sounders FC Major League Soccer club, or a player of Sounders FC makes an appearance to present a prize on the show, or the club and its players is mentioned by the host or contestant. If a Sounders FC prize package is offered in a One Bid, pricing game or in the Showcase, Carey must mention on-air his ownership stake during the bidding. On the December 15, 2010 episode, after a contestant wore Sounders FC merchandise and the contestant and host talked about the team, the show ran a disclaimer in the credits stating Carey's ownership interest in Sounders FC. Disclaimers may also be run if other MLS club kits are worn on-air.
In one situation, a theme week with rule changes caused a Standards and Practices violation. On April 23, 2013, during Big Money Week, a contestant played Grand Game for $100,000 instead of the normal prize of $10,000. The contestant lost at the third guess, which normally is $100, but was $1,000 for Big Money Week. When a contestant has three successful guesses, the contestant is asked if they are to risk their $1,000 for $10,000, but if they are wrong, they lose everything. If a contestant has one or two successful guesses, the wrong answer denotes the contestant retains what they had won in the game. The board operator flipped the game board to show loss at $1,000, where the game board displays 0 (Gas Money displays "0000" when a contestant loses the game; Grand Game displays 0 only if the contestant gambles and misses on the fourth guess). At the ensuing Showcase Showdown, host Drew Carey informed the contestant the official committed a Standards and Practices violation, and the contestant won $1,000, as was prescribed in the rules for two correct guesses but missing on the third (since the game started at $10 instead of $1 for this playing).
Other game shows
Contestants on other game shows, such as Jeopardy! and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, have been brought back on later episodes after a judging error or an error related to question material had been discovered. Other contestants have had prize money awarded despite not seeing their episodes air due to circumstances beyond theirs or the show's control.
Press Your Luck
In an episode of Press Your Luck, the three players were asked a question regarding which cartoon character used the phrase "Sufferin' Succotash!" After the first contestant buzzed in with the answer "Sylvester", host Peter Tomarken gave two other choices of Goofy and Daffy Duck. The other two contestants all went with Sylvester, but Tomarken said the correct answer was Daffy Duck. In actuality, both Sylvester and Daffy Duck have said the phrase. During post-production of the episode the error was discovered and a taped segment, in which Tomarken got a "phone call" from Looney Tunes voice actor Mel Blanc (in the voice of Sylvester), explained the mistake and that all three contestants would be invited back on future episodes.
- In 1999, a Jeopardy! contestant who lost on a Jeopardy! Teen Tournament game on a questionable ruling during Final Jeopardy! was ordered to be brought back for the 2000 College Championship.
- The September 11 through September 14, 2001 episodes of Jeopardy! aired only on a few stations in the United States due to continuous breaking news coverage of the September 11 attacks wholesale pre-empting the show throughout the United States and Canada outside of a few non-news carrying independent stations airing it. As Jeopardy! has rules where the funds for the cash prizes won by contestants on the series are only issued a set period after the episode has aired (and where the show's confidentiality agreement regarding the results of a game has not been breached), the program's Standards and Practices had to issue a one-time exception for those contestants (along with others who had won cash and prizes on sister series Wheel of Fortune on the same airdates [which also has the same policy regarding the timing of the awarding of cash and prizes]) due to the extraordinary circumstance where the results were unseen until cycled into the show's weekend rerun feed or aired on Game Show Network years later, while the Wheel of Fortune episodes were aired early on Sunday, September 16, 2001 on WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C. after midnight (aside from this, they have not been shown anywhere in reruns since); these episodes are available at archive.org.
- A January 30, 2008 episode of Jeopardy! resulted in Arianna Kelly being brought back on an episode on July 8, 2008 when officials found questionable calls during game play against her during that episode.
- On occasion, an answer will have a different correct question when the show was recorded compared to the time the show airs. When that happens, the date of taping will appear on screen as the answer is read in order to comply with Standards and Practices. An example of this was during the second 2014 Jeopardy! Teen Tournament first round match: the answer in the $400 My Present Government Job category in the Jeopardy! round was, "Kathleen Sebelius, Insuring America, one person at a time." The correct response was "What is the Secretary of Health and Human Services?" However, she had resigned from that position in April 2014, between the taping of the match in March 2014 and the July 22, 2014 broadcast. The show posted a disclaimer, "Recorded in March 2014," as the category was being read.
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
In 2001, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? contestant Ed Toutant was given the following question:
|$16,000 (9 out of 15) - No time limit|
|Scientists in England recently altered what vegetable so it glows when it needs water?|
|⬥ A: Potato||⬥ B: Tomato|
|⬥ C: Cabbage||⬥ D: Carrots|
Toutant selected Tomato, but the show said it was Potato. It was later found the answer was flawed after further research from Marc Knight, a professor at Oxford University Department of Plant Sciences. The glowing potato was, in fact, developed in Scotland; however, Knight had developed a glowing tomato in England. Therefore, Toutant's answer of tomato was correct. The $860,000 Skins Game jackpot was in use at the time, and he was allowed to play for the million and the skins game jackpot, which he eventually won.
Patrick Hugh won $1,000 during a Season 7 (syndicated) episode, but a critical word in his $25,000 question was found to be misspelled. He was given the option of being awarded $25,000 "no questions asked" or to forfeit his winnings and return to the show and begin his game with a new $25,000 question with all four of his lifelines reinstated. Hugh chose the latter option, used two lifelines (Ask the Audience/Double-Dip) to correctly answer his new $25,000 question, and missed the $50,000 question after using his Phone-a-Friend and Ask-the-Expert lifelines, so he left with $25,000 this time.
Million Dollar Money Drop
On December 20, 2010, Million Dollar Money Drop contestants Gabe Okoye and Brittany Mayi lost $800,000 on a bad question:
- Which of these was sold in stores first?
They decided to risk $800,000 on the Post-it notes. According to the show, the Post-it notes were first sold in 1980 and the Walkman was first sold in 1979. The answer was flawed after Internet research indicated that the Post-its were first tested for sale in four cities in 1977 before their nationwide introduction in 1980. In a statement by executive producer Jeff Apploff, the information obtained by the show's research department was incomplete. Due to this research error, Gabe and Brittany were invited back for a second chance to play the game, even though their question was not the deciding question in their game. A similar situation happened on the UK version in October 2010 on a Doctor Who question.
In other countries
- In the Philippines, the term network ombudsman (also referred to as office of the network ombudsman) is used for this department.
- Official episode summary for TMNT episode 97, accessed August 12, 2006
- Drew Carey (June 21, 2009). "Christmas in June". Drew from TV blog. Retrieved 8 October 2010.
- Del Rosario, Kath (August 9, 2019). "Reklamo ni MMDA Spox Celine Pialago kay Doris Bigornia, iniimbestigahan na ng ABS-CBN" [MMDA spox Celine Pialago's complaint against Doris Bigornia, now being investigated by ABS-CBN]. RMN.ph (in Tagalog). RMN. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
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- Sensitive Theme Programming and the New American Mainstream. New York: Social Research Unit, Marketing & Research Services, ABC, n.d.
- Standards and Practices, The Museum of Broadcast Communications
- Are Fox and The NFL Kidding? Apparently Standards and Practices Are... Fluid.