PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: Powell offers critics a new perspective

Now that John Ashcroft is out of the picture, who will be America's Prissiest Public Official?

Now that John Ashcroft is out of the picture, who will be America's Prissiest Public Official?

Until last week it seemed FCC chairman Michael Powell was a shoo-in, but a brief foray into common sense may have ruined his chances. To review, Powell is the man who fanned Janet Jackson's Super Bowl slip-up into a national outrage by taking the Drudge-fueled hysteria seriously. He's still trying to collect $550,000 in fines from 20 CBS stations for briefly broadcasting the breast, and for a year now his crusade-like crackdown on public indecency has pushed Howard Stern off the airwaves and made mildly racy Monday Night Football promos the subject of more outrage than your average genocide. But suddenly, Powell thinks we need to get a grip. Why the about-face? Scores of complaints about a Veteran's Day airing of Saving Private Ryan on ABC, uncut and uncensored. Last week, Powell recommended the FCC not fine the 159 ABC affiliates who showed the gory war film. Sixty-six stations refused to air the movie at all for fear of being slapped with just such a penalty. It's worth noting that all ABC affiliates had aired Ryan twice before on Veteran's Day with little to no controversy - back in the days before Powell had the nation whipped into a neo-Puritan frenzy. So we applaud this uncommon display of common sense from our modern-day Torquemada. What we lament is the lack of a clear successor to Mr. Ashcroft. But who knows? Kathy Lee Gifford could always run for office.
  • Douglas Quenqua writes PR Play of the Week. He is PRWeek's Washington, DC, bureau chief. Ratings: 1. Clueless 2. Ill-advised 3. On the right track 4. Savvy 5. Ingenious

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