Sunday night’s Emmy Awards broadcast had glitz, gowns, glamour… and censorship.
Alec Baldwin had planned to make a joke about News Corp.’s recent phone-hacking scandal during the awards show’s opening sketch. FOX, which is owned by News Corp., removed the joke from the previously recorded skit. A network spokeswoman said the decision was made because the company did not want to appear to be making light of the serious hacking allegations.
According to The New York Times, “In the skit, Mr. Baldwin played the ‘president of television.’ While on the phone with an unidentified colleague, he paused and said, ‘Rupert, is that you? I hear you breathing, Rupert!’ The chairman and chief executive of the News Corporation is Rupert Murdoch.”
News of the World, a British News Corp. paper, was shut down this summer following reports that the paper had illegally eavesdropped on several occasions, including hacking into the phones of celebrities and victims’ families. The investigation is ongoing.
After the network cut the joke, Baldwin pulled out of the skit altogether. The sketch was re-filmed without the hacking joke, and Star Trek veteran Leonard Nimoy took over the role. Baldwin did not attend the Emmys, saying he had a prior commitment and insisting that his decision was unrelated to the News Corp. incident.
30 Rock, the NBC comedy in which Baldwin plays a General Electric boss who meddles in a television show, often takes jabs at NBC and network politics. Apparently, Murdoch and Co. lack NBC’s sense of humor.
On Sunday night, Baldwin wrote on Twitter that he understood why News Corp. killed his joke: “If I were enmeshed in a scandal where I hacked phones of families of innocent crime victims purely for profit, I’d want that to go away too.”
Whether watching awards shows or singing along to “Glee,” it’s easy to forget that FOX is owned by News Corp. But even when it comes to entertainment, viewers should always be aware of what message the networks are sending– and what they aren’t letting others say.