Adam Lambert Controversy Drives ABC To Tighten Live Standards

Network wants performers to promise that live performances will resemble rehearsals.

No more surprises, or at least fewer improvisations. In the wake of Lambertgate, ABC has reportedly decided to reconsider how it prepares for live broadcasts and plans to hold performers to stricter standards in the future.

Reuters reported that following Adam Lambert's much-discussed performance at the American Music Awards last month — in which he kissed another man on the mouth, thrust a male dancer's head into his crotch and led two dancers on leashes — the network is seeking more control over how live events are structured.

Disney/ ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney said that the network will now ask artists for assurances that their stage show will resemble their rehearsals and that ABC will seek contractual obligation to make sure artists stick to those plans.

"We certainly don't want to suppress artistry at any level, but we also have to be very cognizant of who our audience is," Sweeney said. ABC edited out portions of Lambert's November 22 AMA performance during the West Coast broadcast of the show and subsequently rescinded an invitation for the "American Idol" runner-up to appear on "Good Morning America" on November 25.

Lambert has said that the kiss was improvised in the moment, and he has remained unapologetic about the sexually charged performance, arguing that as a gay man, he is seemingly being held to a different standard than female performers who have used similar gambits in the past.

Though the decision to cancel Lambert's scheduled "GMA" performance drew fire from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), Sweeney defended the call, saying it was the right one for ABC, noting that many children watch the morning news show. GLAAD representatives told MTV News that the organization met with "GMA" staffers and was assured that Lambert's sexual orientation had nothing to do with the cancellation.

Following the loss of the "GMA" gig, Lambert was quickly booked on CBS' "Early Show" last Wednesday, where controversy erupted again, though not about his somewhat tame performance. CBS drew fire for replaying the footage of Lambert's AMA performance and blurring out the bit where he kissed his male keyboardist but then airing unedited footage of Madonna kissing Britney Spears at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. GLAAD accused the network of employing a double standard when it comes to openly gay performers. CBS told Entertainment Weekly that the Madonna footage is very familiar to viewers and that the Lambert performance is the subject of a current controversy, has not been as widely disseminated and "may still lead to legal consequences."