Not the Bird with which NBC Likes to be Associated

by Melissa Brunner

A bird of a less acceptable variety is ruffling the feathers of the Peacock Network in the aftermath of the Super Bowl halftime show. Singer M.I.A. flashed the middle-finger obscene gesture during her brief stint on stage with Madonna.

If you blinked, you might have missed it. I was watching and missed it. In seeing the replays, I remember the moment, but the gesture didn't register. Still, it soon blew up in the Twitter-verse and the replay has been shown countless times for anyone who didn't catch it live.

The debate being tossed around in the aftermath seems to be who is to blame. The Parents Television Council issued a statement saying "NBC fumled and the NFL lied" because they had assured the public the show would be appropriate for families. While PTC does describe M.I.A.'s actions as "the selfish acts of a desperate performer," it goes on to say that, in choosing performers "who have based their careers on shock, profanity and titillation, NBC and the NFL didn't prevent indecent material, they "enabled it."

While their point about the performers' histories might be well taken, at what point do NBC and the NFL have to trust that these adults will act like adults and stage a performance suitable for the venue. It's much like comedians who have one act they do on network appearances and quite another for their standup at the nightclubs. They understand there is a time and a place to push the envelope. I think Madonna did a good job of toeing the line. She put on an entertaining show and - how did I see someone put it? - actually put on more clothes as it went along!

The networks and the league walk a fine line. They want the best halftime act they can get. They love to get big names which will appeal to a wide variety of people, and, I suppose, it doesn't hurt if they appeal to the advertiser-coveted younger demographic. If NBC and the NFL approached these performers with the stipulation that they would follow certain parameters, and the performers agreed but then decided not to play by the rules, I would think the blame lies squarely with the performers. The network can't control what the performer does live any more than they can control what you can clearly read on the lips of athletes and coaches when they "disagree" with something that's happened in the game.

Of course, you could also argue the network should have kept a closer finger on the so-called kill switch to black out the gesture from being broadcast to the worldwide television audience.

What do you think abou the issue? How much of the blame should NBC and the NFL take in this situation?  Or do you think it falls squarely on M.I.A.?

 

 

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