Most people with children are familiar with the animated series VeggieTales. They are a series of stories based on the Bible. Apparently NBC, who isn't afraid to offend Christians is afraid to offend non-Christians.
Originally NBC claims that they were either edited for time:
"VeggieTales was originally created for home video and, in most cases, each episode is over 30 minutes long. As it appears …. VeggieTales has been edited down for broadcast without losing any of its core messages about positive values," the network said." (World Net Daily)
But World Net Daily quotes Phil Vischer, the co-creator of the characters as saying on his weblog: "As a guy deeply involved with the project, I know that statement is false. We sent them our first episode for TV, which was already edited to EXACTLY the right length, and they rejected it because, at the end, Bob the Tomato said, 'Remember kids, God made you special and he loves you very much.' They demanded we remove that line. The show wasn't too long, it was too religious."
The report goes on: "He said the second also was sent edited for perfect timing. The response from NBC was an e-mail with a list of lines that needed to be removed, "each of them containing either the word 'God' or 'Bible,'" Vischer wrote. "
Later NBC changed its claim & said it was for religious content:
"The show was edited to comply with the network's broadcast standards, said NBC spokeswoman Rebecca Marks. "Our goal is to reach as broad an audience as possible with these positive messages while being careful not to advocate any one religious point of view." (FoxNews)
According to the report on FoxNews.com: " "VeggieTales" creator Phil Vischer, who was responsible for readying episodes for network broadcast, said he didn't know until just weeks before the shows were to begin airing that non-historical references to God and the Bible would have to be removed.
Had he known how much he'd have to change the show — including Bob and Larry's tagline, "Remember kids, God made you special and he loves you very much," that concludes each episode — Vischer said he wouldn't have signed on for the network deal.
"I would have declined partly because I knew a lot of fans would feel like it was a sellout or it was done for money," he said, adding that "there weren't enough shows that could work well without those (religious) references." "
The report goes on to say: "All programs set to air on NBC must meet the network's broadcast standards, said Alan Wurtzel, a broadcast standards executive. "VeggieTales" was treated the same as any other program, he said.
"There's a fine line of universally accepted religious values," he said. "We don't get too specific with any particular religious doctrine or any particular religious denomination."
It will be interesting to see if NBC's supposed newfound sensativity extends to not airing the crucifixion scene when it airs Madonna's film of the concert containing it. It hasn't officially made a decision yet. But even if in this case it does, considering its past record, NBC has showed little care about getting specific when it comes to allowing programs that mock Catholics & Christians.
I can't help but wonder at how far we have come from the days when television welcomed good Christian content. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen had the #1 rated show in the 50s. He got there by being open about his faith. He was clearly a Catholic. How much more specific could you get than some of the things on his set as well as how he was dressed? He always ended his show saying "Good-bye. & God love you." By today's NBC standards Archbishop Sheen would not be able to have a staute of Mary on his set, a Crucifix, (they might let him keep the angel), most of what he wore as a part of his being an Archbishop would have to go (maybe keep the collar?) & that ending would have only been "Good-bye."
Vischer has recently updated his blog. He states that while he is glad that NBC has clarified things (see below) & he accepts their rights to set their own standards he goes on to say: "I wish I had known the extent of the required cuts before agreeing to reformat the shows, because I probably would have declined the invitation to participate. While some VeggieTales shows work fine without overt references to God or the Bible (like Snoodle's Tale, which presents God allegorically, or Sheerluck Holmes, which simply teaches the Golden Rule), most of the shows I wrote in the pre-bankruptcy days don't really teach lessons about values at all, but rather about God. And those shows don't hold up very well if you try to take God out. So I probably would have declined to participate simply because there aren't enough veggie shows that could be made acceptable to NBC without signifanctly compromising their message."
I agree with NBC's right to choice its own content. But they should have been upfront about what was or wasn't acceptable. It stricks me that NBC mislead Mr. Vischer. They knew of VeggieTales popularity as well as the heart of its content. They saw an opportunity to get a potential ratings hit on their schedule. & the people at Big Idea who own VeggieTales knew that they would have do some editing:
"When we were presented with the opportunity to reach a mass television audience, we knew that certain religious references would not be allowed on a children's block under current TV network guidelines. And we recognized that we were not going to change the rules of network television overnight.
In light of this, "Can Big Idea continue to fulfill its mission of enhancing the spiritual and moral fabric of society through creative media?" became the question we had to answer. Can VeggieTales make a difference on Saturday morning? We think so. " (from the VeggieTales website)
But, apparently NBC mislead them as to exactly what was acceptable. NBC knew if they had been forward about the true extent of what they would have allowed they could have never gotten their potential cash cow. They are coming across as wanting the hit without the heart, they were only after the bucks they could make. But they don't want a positive view of God. & when the truth came out their changing stories make it clear that they were caught with their hand in the cookie jar. NBC's double "Standards" have come back to bite them.
The positive I see out of this is that the true message of VeggieTales is now getting a wider audience than it ever would have. & NBC may be forced to allow VeggieTales to be aired as Big Idea originally edited them, again allowing the message to get out. & NBC will now have to hold itself to a higher standard on how it handles religion on its other shows. There will be plenty of people waiting to hold NBC to it. & they will probably have to. As I said, NBC's track record, including the current season, doesn't give me any reason to think otherwise. But, I will wait & see.
Phil Vischer weblog: