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Useful Notes / Safe Harbor

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Under FCC rules, the content restrictions on broadcast TV and broadcast radio do not apply between 10:00 P.M. and 6:00 A.M. This allows "indecent" (R, and even NC-17 rated) programming to be shown uncensored on regular networks. Between 10:00 P.M.-6:00 A.M. they can play "offensive" material, such as George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can't Say on Television."

Thanks to fickle advertisers who don't want to be associated with risqué content, this rule is seldom exploited. A notable exception is PBS, which, thanks to a combination of its funding system and its audience, tends to just let things fly on their post-Safe Harbor programming, particularly shows imported from Britain.

There are no time restrictions on cable or satellite TV stations or satellite radio, they can play anything (except one, listed below) any time day or night.

However, "obscene" material (which has a specific legal definition) is still prohibited, and that includes cable and satellite stations as well as broadcast. Examples of "obscene" material would be child pornography and certain forms of hard-core adult pornography. The exact definition was given by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miller v. California.

Similar to the UK's Watershed and Japan's Otaku O'Clock.

  • Comedy Central shows uncensored Stand-Up and movies in their Secret Stash. Comedy Central also shows commercials for "Girls Gone Wild", phone sex networks, and pay per view porn at that time. Indeed, they broadcast one or more of these ads every commercial break after 10:00. This has now gone through the looking glass, to where the newer stand-up acts aired during these time slots will actively reference that the viewer will likely see at least one Girls Gone Wild commercial during the breaks.
    • Although they claim that their movies are uncensored, some still are. Nudity is normally blurred out. They lie.
    • Most of the comedy specials debuted first on pay TV stations like HBO which are not covered by F.C.C. censorship rules.
  • PBS and RKO Pictures' adaptation of the play The Gin Game, in which Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke drop F-Bombs on each other for five minutes.
  • Citytv (the original in Toronto) and certain other TV stations in Canada used to schedule soft porn late at night. After Rogers acquired Citytv, the porn was dropped permanently.
  • When Conan O'Brien moved from 12:35/11:35 to 11:35/10:35, a big deal was made about how some of his show's racier skits could not go with him. Sort of. The biggest offender everyone could think of was the Masturbating Bear, which actually showed up and did his thing on the show's prime-time Milestone Celebration in 2003. He also showed up on The Tonight Show when Conan got sick of NBC's extreme Executive Meddling. Conan's going to cable, so he'll be much freer content-wise.
  • Fox briefly took advantage of this in 2013 with their Animation Domination High-Def Block. The show High School U.S.A. was rated TV-MA and featured partial nudity, as well as unbleeped swearing, excluding "fuck". Many of the sketches in between also featured similar content. However, just months later, FOX cracked down on the content and edited the block to a TV-14 standard.
  • Pretty much the point of [adult swim], though the block has shifted up to before the safe harbor time at 8 PM EST as of 2018 and normally starts out with tamer programming such as King of the Hill.
    • A kind of predecessor was Toonami's "Midnight Run" showing of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, without most of the censorship shown in the afternoon broadcast earlier in the day.
  • A careful analysis of Spike TV's advertising during the Safe Harbor reveals that the network apparently assumes its entire viewership to be male, between 18 and 30, undereducated, unemployed, or underemployed, and horny. They actually fired the exec in charge of the channel in 2005 for bringing in too many female viewers. In Spike's defense, channel formats are bait to draw in people for ads, after all, and women weren't their intended market. Ironically, Spike later reversed this course in 2011, saying they wanted to be a channel for "men, not just guys" and welcoming female viewers.
  • NYPD Blue was one of the few network TV shows that exploited this.
  • The Swedish version of MTV used to show rather explicit music videos, such as "Everybody Knows That You Are Insane" by Queens of the Stone Age, which featured a naked guy running around in his apartment doing... unorthodox stuff.
  • In Germany, TV stations can show programs rated 18 only from 11 PM to 6 AM. Public stations are not bound to this and can show everything they want at every time, but the only station that actually uses this power is ARTE, the artistic channel which sees censoring as being against their theme.
  • BET had a one-hour block of music videos from 2000 to 2006 entitled "BET Uncut", which was broadcast Wednesdays through Fridays at 3 a.m. (humorously, the block sometimes appeared before an early-morning church service on the schedule). The block was most known for its videos that bordered on softcore porn, though some also were aired in the Uncut block due to violence, excessive drug references, or controversial political views.
  • Back in the early days of cable, some stations would timeshare with a scrambled feed of The Playboy Channel, which was broadcast during safe harbor hours.