UPDATED: The f-bomb cropped up with eye-opening frequency Monday as local television stations went to wall-to-wall coverage of the George Zimmerman trial.
“There were more f-bombs than in ‘Scarface,’” WOFL-Channel 35 anchor Bob Frier said, apologizing to viewers.
Prosecutor John Guy repeated the expletive that Zimmerman had uttered in a non-emergency call to police the night Trayvon Martin was shot. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in Trayvon’s fatal shooting.
Guy apologized for his language, which included “[Expletive] punks.”
Guy's repeated dropping of the f-bomb had to jolt viewers who were watching WOFL, WFTV-Channel 9, WKMG-Channel 6, WESH-Channel 2 and Central Florida News 13.
"It's unfortunate," WESH General Manager Jim Carter said of the profanities. "But our policy is we don't delay live coverage of news events." WESH will continue with that policy, he added.
More expletives, at least five words featuring variations of the f-bomb, went out Monday afternoon.
At first, WFTV General Manager Shawn Bartelt acknowledged that the language was “certainly shocking to some” but added that “the actual language is a major part of the story.”
Later Monday, Bartelt said her station would go to a delay. “I don't think anyone was anticipating what today was going to be,” she said. “It requires a little technology here. We're getting that in place.” She described the material with the expletives as “a very pertinent part of the evidence” but said people got the drift.
“We'll go through a server and do a delay,” Bartelt said. “We never needed to do this with Casey Anthony. We feel it's time to do the eight-second delay.”
When the state started its opening statement, the f-bomb went out once on News 13, which later bleeped Guy.
“It's obviously a live feed and everyone [all media] is taking the same feed,” said Donald Forbes, spokesman for Bright House Networks, which owns News 13. “We have a time-delay dump button in place to prevent any coarse language from going on air. We want to apologize if the prosecutor's language offended our viewers.”
The stations put up alerts about the language. WFTV posted a warning that opening statements can contain graphic language. WKMG also warned of graphic language. “Viewer discretion advised,” WOFL said. The Orlando Sentinel carries the WOFL stream live on OrlandoSentinel.com, so viewers there saw the uncensored version. Later in the day, when the Sentinel put up video outtakes of the opening arguments, the obscenities were not audible.
The WKMG team later told viewers that a time delay was in place. “For sensitive ears ... we've put in a little delay, and we've tried to block out as much of those curse words as possible,” reporter Mike DeForest said. Anchor Matt Austin apologized if anything did manage to slip through.
“The first obscenity went through due to a technical problem,” WKMG General Manager Skip Valet said. “WKMG is using a delay, and subsequent obscenities in the opening statement were not broadcast.”
The bad language was a recurring issue. When defense attorney Don West used “f------ punks” in his opening statement, it went out over WFTV.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun