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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.

The same practice is used by all live radio stations in the UK.

Examples of Live but Delayed include:

Live-Action TV

  • This practice is used on View. It came in handy when Whoopi Goldberg got pissed off at Bill O ' Reilley, cursed him out, and walked off the stage along with Joy Behar.
  • Certain Saturday Night Live episodes -- namely ones with very controversial hosts, like Richard Pryor -- run on a several-second delay.
    • The three SNL episodes that were on seven-second delay were: 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). Lorne Michaels doesn't like putting the show on seven-second delay, so it hasn't been used that much since the Andrew "Dice" Clay episode, not even on the episode hosted by Martin Lawrence from season 19 where Martin goes into a monologue about women who don't wash their private parts. In the NBC rerun, that part of the monologue was cut and replaced with a series of cards that explained why Martin's monologue can never be shown in full again (though with full seasons of SNL coming out uncut and uncensored on DVD, there might be a possibility it'll crop up again. Give it a few years).
    • Forgot to mention that SNL is put on a time delay...if you live in the Mountain and West Coast of the United States, meaning if something goes wrong during the show, the people on the East Coast and in the Central Time Zone will see it, but not the Mountain and West Coast viewers. Example: on the first episode of SNL's 35th season (Megan Fox with musical guest U2), there was a sketch about biker chicks with their own talk show who keep saying "friggin'" and "freakin'" every couple of words. The host of the biker talk show (played by new featured player Jenny Slate) slips up and says, "You know, you stood up for yourself and I fuckin' love you for that!" after her sidekick throws an ashtray at her head and misses. On the East and Central Time Zone, the line was heard, but on the Mountain and West Coast airings, the line was changed to "You know, you stood up for yourself and I frickin' love you for that!" (don't know if this was a dress rehearsal version or a quick redub).
    • They usually tape the rehearsals (in front of a studio audience) on Friday afternoon. SNL is technically "live" only on the East Coast, so if anybody screws up on that level the rest of the country never sees it -- they simply air the rehearsal footage instead.
  • After the infamous Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson boob fiasco, Super Bowl halftimes are now delayed a few seconds.
  • 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.
  • Live but Delayed became a plot point on Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip when NBS was 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.
    • Note that this would be incredibly unlikely in real life, as the FCC gives more latitude to news coverage featuring profanity as out of the control of any authority.
      • 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." Mind you, in that case, it was approximately $500,000 per incident, rather than the ludicrous fine for the instance mentioned above.
  • 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: Apparently the Times Square New Year's ball drop is shown on a three-hour tape delay on the West Coast so that they can watch it fall at midnight too.
    • 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.
    • The drop is live nationwide on cable news channels such as CNN due to the rolling nature of the services.
    • Thankfully many of the big award shows are finally realizing that West Coast viewers don't want to be isolated for three hours from results, and began to air ceremonies live to the West Coast in 2010 in a few major cases.
  • 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 I'm complaining, mind you...
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • A City TV News broadcast once had the following live man-on-the-street interview:

 Some dude: Am I really on live TV?

Reporter: Yes.

Dude: Fuck fuck fuck fuck f--.

    • Needless to say, that station now delays live interviews by several seconds.
    • Something similar 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 in case it went wrong and he shot himself in the head.
    • Doubtful. If he told the audience that, it is probably part of his performance hype.
  • 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 preformance.

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.
    • Subverted by 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.


  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Web Original

  • Any online video game competition, with money on the line, that is streamed live will have some sort of delay in order to prevent the players from using the stream to gain an unfair advantage.
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