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Academy Blasts Oscars' 5-Second Rule

02/11/2004 12:04PM

Even with all the hoopla over what should (and should not) be shown on television, the 76th annual Academy Awards will still be broadcast live -- sort of.

The granddaddy of all awards shows is being billed as a live performance, but ABC will actually present the three-and-a-half hour program with a five-second delay. On Monday, Academy Awards telecast producer Joe Roth broke the news to many nominees at a pre-Oscar luncheon that included Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Clint Eastwood and Charlize Theron among about 100 attendees.

"I spoke with the nominees and just said that, when they come up (to receive an award), they're all under this microscope," Roth said, reports the Associated Press.

The suggested lag time has caused a rift between Oscars' host organization, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and ABC. Frank Pierson, president of the Academy, refused to sanction the delay, calling it the start of a downhill slide that "introduces a form of censorship," according to Reuters.

However, the decision to use the delay ultimately rests with the broadcasting network, and it comes in the wake of the Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake Super Bowl halftime stunt, during which part of Jackson's bustier was ripped off and one of her breasts was exposed on live television.

In a letter to Academy members, Pierson wrote that "even a very brief tape delay introduces a form of censorship into a broadcast" since the network is placed in charge of determining what the acceptable standard might be.

Furthermore, in a year during which a presidential race is heating up, there was some question as to whether the slight delay would be used to filter out political statements, such as filmmaker Michael Moore's statements condemning President Bush during Moore's acceptance speech last year.

But at Monday's luncheon Roth said the delay would apply to the use of profanity, not political speech, AP reports. The Academy Awards will be broadcast on Feb. 29.

Meanwhile, the fallout over the halftime show is expected to continue in other venues Wednesday, as executives from the National Football League and Viacom (which owns halftime-show producer MTV) are scheduled to testify before a House of Representatives panel in Washington, D.C.

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