A year ago, CBS 2 reporter Arthur Chi'en was fired for swearing on camera after an Opie & Anthony fan used an "obscene gesture" while Chi'en was reporting on Metrocards, and Chi'en, not realizing he was on air, yelled, "What the fuck's your problem, man?" And CBS 2, reeling from various FCC snafus, pulled the trigger and fired the Chi'en, leading to outrage, Save Arthur Chi'en petition and Chi'en Revolution shirts on Cafe Press. Chi'en, for his part, moved on to a new job with the Channel 11 News at Ten. But, yesterday, an arbitrator found that WCBS's acted wrongly by firing Chi'en. Arbitrator Richard Adelman felt that Chi'en should have been reprimanded, but not terminated for his actions. Here's an excerpt of the ruling:
...the evidence reveals that Mr. Chi'en did not intend for his words to be heard on-air, that this was a singular incident in which the word "fuck" was used outside any sexual context, that the Station did not receive a single complaint about the incident... Furthermore, the applicable Company policy, which, among other prohibitions, prohibited the word "fuck" on the air, does not require the termination of employees for a violation of the policy, and Howard Stern was not terminated for far more egregious on-air conduct. In short, the Company did not have cause to discharge Mr. Chi'en.
The NY Times reports that the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists had "urged him to challenge the firing," in order to avoid unfair firings like this. Here, here - while swearing is clearly not a part of the job, are idiot bystanders supposed to unduly harrass reporters? We are still amazed that WCBS fired Chi'en for standing up for himself.
WCBS's statement said, "To the contrary, the arbitrator determined that Mr. Chi'en violated a universally recognized taboo in the broadcast industry and that the company had no choice but to take strong action against him. While we disagree about the specific penalty, the arbitrator nonetheless imposed a lengthy suspension on Mr. Chi'en for his misconduct." And Chi'en's response? "I'm just glad that this is over and behind me. It never should have happened to begin with."
Photograph of Chi'en reporting on the transit strike from ANIMAL New York onFlickr