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Live but Delayed

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Delaying a Broadcast Live event by at least a few seconds so that any inappropriate material can be removed or bleeped out. This practice is used by all live radio stations in the UK.

It is also found in any online video game competition with money on the line: live streaming will have some sort of delay to prevent the players from using the stream to spy on their opponents. Furthermore, digital video encoding will always cause delays to occur — an update to the video systems of popular game streaming site Twitch caused delays of up to 60 seconds.


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    Fan Works 
  • In Origin Story, Alex Harris, in her superhero identity "Superwoman," makes a guest appearance on "The Monsters in the Morning," a morning drive-time shock-jock show in Orlando, Florida. One of the hosts asks for her opinion on the Avengers, leading to the following comments:
    Dirty Jim: "So nothing bad about the Avengers?"
    Alex Harris: "Well, Captain Marvel's a total [BLEEPED OUT]. Can I say [BLEEPED OUT] on the radio?
    Russ Rollins: "Not technically, but we're running on a delay, so it'll get bleeped out."
    Alex Harris: "Okay, in that case yeah, Captain Marvel is a complete and total [BLEEPED OUT] and I'm glad I kicked her ass. Twice."

    Live-Action TV 
  • This practice is used on The View. It came in handy when Whoopi Goldberg got pissed off at Bill O'Reilly, cursed him out, and walked off the stage along with Joy Behar.
  • For the first 42 seasons of Saturday Night Live, the show ran on tape delay in the Mountain and Pacific time zones. Starting with the last few episodes of Season 42 in spring 2017, the show has aired live across the whole country, which requires it to run in the Pacific time zone three hours earlier. On a few occasions with hosts thought to be controversial—the Richard Pryor episode from season 1 (1975), the Sam Kinison episode from season 12 (1986), and the Andrew "Dice" Clay episode from 1990 (season 15)—the show has aired on a seven-second delay to avoid the possibility of swear words going out live on the air.
  • After the infamous Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson boob fiasco, Super Bowl halftimes are now delayed a few seconds. Their system still isn't perfect: In 2012, when M.I.A. performed as a guest for Madonna's halftime show and flipped her middle finger to the camera, the entire screen blurred a second too late.
  • The BBC did not use a delay when transmitting Live 8 and Live Earth, which led in both cases to very strong swearing going out pre-watershed and raps from Ofcom both times. It happened on the original Live Aid at some point, but given the previous segment was Nightmare Fuel and a colossal Tear Jerker all rolled into one it's unlikely anyone actually noticed.
  • The broadcast from 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing was delayed for 30 seconds, due to risk of political protests.
    • A lot of sporting events are broadcast in China with a 30 second delay. A scammer ring took advantage of that a few years ago, using the thirty second gaps to place bets in sites to make a lot of money.
  • Non-censorship example: coverage of the Times Square New Year's ball drop on broadcast networks (i.e. ABC, NBC) is shown on a three-hour tape delay on the West Coast so that they can watch it fall at midnight too. News channels like CNN show it live nationally, however.
    • They do a similar thing in Australia, where the Sydney Harbour fireworks are broadcast at each time zone's local time. Last year, since Western Australia was on daylight saving time, the same program was rebroadcast once every half an hour over a span a bit over two hours long.
    • Every live broadcast is delayed by 3 hours on the West Coast. Saturday Night Live? We never get to see any accidents/major screwups, they've had 3 hours to edit them out. American Idol finale? Don't go on the Internet for 3 hours prior to the announcement... you will see the answer in headlines and Twitter before you get to see it on TV. NBC does this with its Olympics coverage: despite the point of live sports being that it's live, important events are aired on three-hour tape delay. Want to see if Michael Phelps broke the record for gold medals? Too bad; you can't see it live. Heck, in Beijing, they made a huge deal about pushing the organizers to put certain swimming finals in the morning so they could show them live in U.S. primetime ... on the East anyway.
      • Made rather ridiculous with the 2010 Vancouver Games. Despite taking place in the Pacific Time Zone, those in the same time zone in the United States couldn't watch the games live!
      • Seems that NBC finally learned part of their lesson though, as they announced that it would stream all of the events online beginning at London. However, they still showed events on primetime tape delay... (including the ceremonies; only the closing ceremonies were streamed following a huge outcry from viewers, #nbcfail)
      • Beginning with the 2018 Winter Olympics, NBC now broadcasts sports live in all time zones during primetime, and starting with the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, air the opening ceremony live. (with a replay in primetime if the ceremony happened earlier in the day, such as with the Tokyo Olympics and the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022) The closing ceremony however, remains tape delayed for primetime with streaming being the only option available to watch the closing ceremony live.
    • Averted by the Academy Awards, which are always broadcast live on both the east and west coast.
  • Between an audience member flashing her boobs on camera and Jane Fonda dropping a C-bomb, it's surprising that NBC's Today Show still isn't on a broadcast delay. Not that we are complaining, mind you... (All of the morning shows are usually tape-delayed for every time zone by default.)
  • Big Brother in the UK goes haywire with this, not even showing footage of the housemates when they silence it (they usually cut to the chickens in the back garden). Wouldn't be so bad if they didn't do it way post-watershed as well - it's very confusing to watch overzealous censoring at 3am.
    • The late night/early morning censorship tends to be when potentially libelous material is being said, e.g. references to friends and commercial brands.
    • Or if someone's saying something exciting so you'll watch the highlights show.
    • Or if the housemates are singing — as Endemol and the carrying channel may have to clear music rights. Not every broadcaster has blanket agreements with the PRS or equivalent.
    • Also ...Live is/was delayed by fifteen whole minutes anyway- more than long enough for more strategic censoring.
    • There is no politics on the broadcast, as George Galloway MP found out the hard way.
    • The US Version also has a delay during their live feeds. Anytime a houseguest starts singing a song, the feeds will immediately cut away to prevent copyright issues. The voice of Big Brother will tell the houseguests to 'STOP SINGING!'.
  • Ditto I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!!.
  • Coach's Corner, a longstanding segment of Hockey Night In Canada, has had this happen a couple of times due to controversial remarks by analyst Don Cherry about French Canadians and Europeans.
  • Not surprisingly, the live Jackassworld 24 hr. MTV Take Over was on a delay. Steve-O and Chris Pontius even met the ladies in charge of censoring and put them to the test on the spot.
  • Something once happened on the British news comedy Have I Got News For You where a guest uttered a stream of profanity that was covered up by bleeps. The guest then informed the director of the show that he had just broadcast the Morse Code for BLEEEEP! (This is more a case of Throw It In!, though: Have I Got News For You is pre-recorded and is notorious for being edited to make the host look wittier than the guests.)
  • For whatever reason, any "live" feed on the cable news channel MSNBC is several seconds late when compared to other networks.
  • TFI Friday did this after two guests dropped F-bombs (Shaun Ryder, who is now banned from ever appearing live on Channel 4, and Ewan McGregor, who made an honest mistake).
  • Derren Brown's Russian Roulette was broadcast live in the UK on Channel 4, but for a 1 second delay. The stated reason was that the trick might go wrong and kill him. It was leaked afterwards that he had used blanks, in which case there would still be potential for serious injury.
  • The timezone variant is surprisingly averted in 30 Rock for a fifth-season live broadcast; half the country got one live performance, and the other half got a second live performance.
  • On one Atlanta local news channel, they will show delayed helicopter footage of things like police chases or standoffs (so that if the guy crashes or opens fire, the audience won't have to see the violence).
  • For many years the Indianapolis 500 was shown on TV on a several hour delay. The race started at 11am but it wasn't broadcast until 8pm Eastern. The last year they did this was 1985. (Radio always carried it live.) NBC now broadcasts it live in all parts of the United States EXCEPT for Indianapolis, where the several hour broadcast delay remains, which was done with the intention of encouraging race attendance at the track.
  • In Australia, the Supercars Championship Bathurst 1000 endurance race is usually broadcast live on television. But in 2010, viewers on Seven Network (the Supercars TV broadcaster at the time) realised by the end of the 6-hour race that the TV coverage was 20 minutes behind online broadcasts. It was then found out that Seven had fit in the usual commercial breaks, but delayed the broadcast in order to do so - without telling anyone about it. This resulted in the eventual 20-minute delay. Needless to say, Australian motorsport fans were not happy at all.
  • ESPN's College GameDay had an incident where this was expected but averted. Lee Corso pulls out a cheerleading megaphone for one of his trademark prop gags. He goes to yell into it before saying "Ah, fuck it", tossing it away and putting on a University of Houston Cougar's mascot hat. Olympic athlete and Houston Alumni Carl Lewis was on set and said "Glad there's delay"...except there wasn't. Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit's reactions are priceless.
    • Exaggerated on ESPN's live broadcasts of the World Series of Poker events (not to be confused with the post-produced episodes people are more familiar with). The tape is delayed by several minutes to prevent/minimize cheating via accomplices watching the broadcast (delays ranging anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes). The commentators do, however, repeatedly remind the audience that the event is on a time delay, and the reasons for it.
  • Fox Sports 1 drew the fury of NASCAR fans everywhere with their tactic of delaying broadcasts of qualifying sessions to fit the commercial breaks in. It doubled when people realized that ESPN didn't do this for their qualifying broadcasts, thus laying down a template for broadcasting the new knockout qualifying without having to do a tape delay - a template FS1 explicitly said they weren't going to use (to be fair to them, it is said that FS1 bought their ad package based on the 2013 qualifying format, which used single-car runs, and therefore couldn't be fit properly to the group format).
    • Speaking of NASCAR, events for the regional series (K&N Pro Series East and West, Whelen Modified North and South) are shown a full week after the race date,note  even for companion events for the Cup Series. As of 2014, even the Modified events at Bristol and New Hampshire, previously broadcast live on Speed (and in the case of 2013, on Fox Sports 2), were now running on a week's delay. However, there are reports that at least the companion events in the second half of the season will be broadcast live in 2015 as part of NBC Sports' return to the NASCAR fold.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Most episodes of WWE Monday Night Raw run this way. It's most obvious in the last episode to air on Spike TV, in which the audio suddenly drops any time the words "USA Network" are mentioned, and a "Technical Difficulties" screen comes up any time a sign mentioning USA is seen in the crowd. As the commentators catch on to what is going on, they start having a lot of fun with trying to beat the censor, giving us a lot of surreal commentary.
    • One obvious example of this delay in action was Vince McMahon's 2001 live speech announcing his plans for the purchase of WCW - since TNT didn't have a similar delay for the Nitro episode, the feed shown on Raw happened to be lagging several seconds behind the Nitro feed of the same speech.
    • An odd aversion came in Bret Hart's infamous "Frustrated isn't the Goddamn word for it! THIS IS BULLSHIT!" speech in 1997. Vince McMahon told Hart that the delay would be active and supervised so he could get as colorful as he wanted, but he was lying and it went out as is. Muted words were noticeable over the next several months, though the censorship was inconsistent: Shawn Michaels saying "'Tough titty' said the kitty" went out as is while Hart quoting Michaels was censored a week or two later.
    • In a variation for Canadian viewers, after The Score (now Sportsnet 360) picked up the rights to air Raw from TSN in 2006, they began airing it on a 15 minute tape delay, with a countdown show preceding it at 9:00 PM (similar to Canada's domestic version of The WWE Experience.) While this did build in a lot of time to remove or censor objectionable content, the 15 minute delay was actually due to CRTC limitations on how much live content The Score could air in a given period. After Rogers purchased the channel and fully rebranded it in 2013, Raw began airing live in Canada once again.

  • One time when it was averted for a live radio broadcast (Front Row on Radio 4) a guest used the word "cunt" live on air. The memo to introduce a time delay probably landed in the producer's inbox before the show had finished broadcast.
    • Similarly, Slash of Guns N' Roses turned up for a music award very drunk, and slurred out some curses before mumbling "oops", which led directly to the introduction of a time delay.
  • After the incident in which radio host Don Imus described the Rutgers' women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos", part of his probation once he got back on the air was a 10-second delay.
  • Stand-up comic Jasper Carrott talks about how he remembers when his local radio station had to introduce a four second delay in transmission, listeners would call Tony Butler - the sports pundit - on the phone-in show a argue with him. An engineer at the station has four seconds to interject with the station jingle... "Hello, Tone? I think you should stick that microphone right up your-BRMB Radio!" Everyone listening is hoping one day the engineer will miss his cue. Listen here...
  • A fixture in just about every radio talk show known to man. The broadcast is typically 2-3 seconds behind the actual conversation, and almost every host is equipped with a crash button on his console. Whenever something happens or is said that is inappropriate for public broadcast, someone will hit the button, erasing the last several seconds of the broadcast currently in the queue. This usually leads to somebody talking to a call-in listener, when the audio abruptly changes; usually to the host either berating the listener for using inappropriate language, or simply dumping the call.
    • One local radio morning show will often let potty mouthed guests or callers know they are running low on delay. If they run out they will usually hang up on them.
    • Coast to Coast AM cuts to a recording of an announcer giving out the call-in number. It can be quite jarring when a conversation is suddenly interrupted by " East of the Rockies, call..."
  • There's a large red button labeled DUMP on the broadcasting software at KFAN sports radio. There's an 8 second delay between the interview in the studio and what's being broadcasted.
  • A rather unusual example: analogue BBC radio stations broadcast "the pips" immediately before hourly news broadcasts - with the final long pip being broadcast on the dot of the hour. However, they are omitted from digital radio due to a time delay of a few seconds introduced by the encoding/decoding of the audio (i.e. technical limitations rather than editorial policy).

In-Universe examples:

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Midnight Caller, Jack's radio show uses this.
    Billy: It's on a seven-second delay, so if the caller becomes abusive or obscene, you have enough time to cut him off before the call gets on the air.
    Jack: What if I become abusive or obscene?
    Billy: Then I cut you off.
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip:
    • NBS at one point is faced with a $73m fine from the FCC after a soldier and reporter (who'd just come under RPG fire in Afghanistan) used that word you can't say on American television in a live news report. Realistically, this would be incredibly unlikely, as the FCC gives more latitude to news coverage featuring profanity as out of the control of any authority, and for networks it can only fine owned-and-operated stations rather than affiliates in most cases, which unless the network was completely careless and let multiple f-bombs fly, could never get anywhere near $73 million. It was based on a tentative FCC complaint where PBS's Frontline was at risk of a multi-million dollar fine for the number of uses of the F-word in its special "A Company of Soldiers." Even then, it was approximately $500,000 per incident.
    • In another episode of Studio 60 they make use of the West Coast Delay to edit out a segment in which they inadvertently plagiarized another comic's bit; and then they had to do it again for the Hawaii feed when they had to edit the edit. The latter would never happen in real life; at that point the network would just give up and either cut the bit entirely or still-screen a boilerplate apology for the benefit of Honolulans.

    Video Games