Feb 12, 2024 - News

Old News: Winter Olympics vs. porn battle in Utah

animation of an XXX neon sign being powered off

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

It was 22 years ago this week that Utahns learned they'd have to wait a while to peep some T&A on PBS.

  • This is Old News, where we transmit truths from Utah's past.

What happened: In February 2002, PBS Frontline had just released an episode with a lot of buzz.

  • "American Porn" covered the millions of dollars flowing through the adult entertainment industry, and the Bush administration's efforts to prosecute obscenity.
  • It was scheduled to air just as 750,000 people were rolling into Utah for the Olympics.

The intrigue: PBS promoted the episode with "more warnings than over-the-counter drug labels," the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.

  • "Even with censoring, you still have to wade through sex acts so out there that even Larry Flynt thinks they're bad for business," wrote the Chicago Sun-Times.

Reality check: The excitement amounted to some foul language and distant shots of nudity, Variety disclosed.

  • PBS released two versions, one more explicit than the other.

Yes, but: Even the "clean" cut was wrong for the Olympic crowds, Salt Lake's PBS station, KUED, determined.

The bottom line: The station instead "decided to load the schedule with documentaries on Utah history" and air the porn report a month after it was released, according to The Tribune.

  • Smith said programming managers thought they could achieve higher ratings in February with shows "discussing Brigham Young, Park City and polygamy."

What we're watching: Maybe if Frontline does something racy in February 2034, Salt Lake's Olympic audiences will finally get to see "American Porn," this time as historical programming!

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