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Problem:

My viewing experience is tainted by the “cleansing” of perceived foul language and/or content by network and cable censors.

Issues to consider:

  1. No station is going to simulcast 2 streams of video and/or audio just for language. This will eat up satellite bandwidth and cost millions.
  2. You don’t fuck with the FCC.

Thus, we are left to find a way to selectively filter out content using existing technology and infrastructure.

Here is my spitball concept:

During Editorial – within Avid or Final Cut Pro – a marker could be placed in the timeline at the start of the offensive word / and or phrase. These markers, when exported, could easily become metadata within that exported file. As that file gets transcoded, moved, and subsequently broadcast, this metadata “flag” could trigger a process within the end user cable box to replace the offensive audio with a bleep. This keeps the censorship on a per household and per TV set basis – i.e. the adults make the call on what’s acceptable; not the station. As an added bonus, there could be parameters for types of markers: language, violence, religion, etc…think of a V Chip on steroids.

A modification could also be made to this workflow to have the “flag” be automatic.

How?

Closed Captioning requires transcription of the spoken word. This is the encoded into the video signal and timed intervals. A filter added to the broadcast center gear would allow any closed captioning word or phrase that is equal to a set of parameters, to effectively be censored. Closed Captioning also has other “hidden” metadata, that could also be used to trigger the censor, if the text is not deemed accurate enough. (Remember, closed captioning text is not always in sync with the audio – and closed captioning can always be turned off by the user.)

What problems this does present is:

  1. What if the system ever fails? Broadcast outlets could face steep FCC fines if someone tripped a power cord and Pulp Fiction was broadcast sans bleeps.
  2. What if people are using over-the-air HD sets? No cable box would force the brodcasters to have the security in place – not the end user.

Penny for your thoughts?