The FCC fined ABC $1.4 million for showing the posterior of NYPD Blue actress Charlotte Ross. They'd showed Dennis Franz from the rear naked numerous times in prior episodes without FCC interference or complaint. I'm confused.
Watch the clip, you decide: Charlotte Ross in Shower
The Federal Communications Commission has proposed a $1.4 million fine against 52 ABC Television Network stations over a 2003 broadcast of cop drama NYPD Blue.
WASHINGTON (Jan. 26)
ABC is owned by the Walt Disney Co. The fines were issued against 52 stations either owned by or affiliated with the network.
FCC's definition of indecent content requires that the broadcast "depicts or describes sexual or excretory activities" in a "patently offensive way" and is aired between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
The agency said the show was indecent because "it depicts sexual organs and excretory organs - specifically an adult woman's buttocks."
The agency rejected the network's argument that "the buttocks are not a sexual organ."
FCC fine for nudity guarantees more exposure
IF THE Parents Television Council really wanted people to watch a portion of a 2003 "NYPD Blue" episode that included a woman's naked buttocks, they've succeeded.
It is all over the Internet. The Parents Television Council even has it featured prominently on its own Web site, with a link and an invitation to "view the clip." They include a note: "WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT!" The warning guarantees everyone will click on it.
I watched it myself yesterday and I can say that, yes, it's buttocks. (To see the clip in question, scroll to the bottom of this article. Warning: Graphic Content!)
What strikes me as a bit odd is that the council insists its mission is to keep children from viewing something like an actress' rear end. Where are kids today? They're on the Internet.
It would be amusing, except that Kevin Harlan, general manager of WKOW-TV/Channel 27 in Madison, isn't laughing.
"I'm a bit speechless," Harlan was saying Tuesday.
The 5-year-old episode of "NYPD Blue" is news today -- and the clip ubiquitous -- because on Friday, the Federal Communications Commission announced a fine in excess of $1.4 million for 52 television stations either owned by or affiliated with ABC, which aired the "NYPD Blue" episode on Feb. 25, 2003. WKOW-TV is one of the stations that carried the episode.
Each individual station was fined $27,500. "We're still digesting it," Harlan said. "It's kind of mind-boggling."
In a press release, the television council cheered the fines. The group's president, Tim Winter, said: "We are thankful that the FCC has finally taken a stand for children and families with this unanimous order. The delay in getting here has been frustrating, but we are delighted by the decision. PTC members and concerned citizens across the country spoke out against the nudity in the 2003 episode of 'NYPD Blue' and today their pleas have been answered."
Others have weighed in on the opposite side, finding the issue much ado about little and the fines ridiculous.
"The description of the scene by the FCC is more lewd and lascivious than the scene itself," wrote TV critic Jeff Jarvis, on his buzzmachine.com blog. "It's written as if by a dirty old man."
Jarvis has been a persistent critic of the television council and was quoted in a March 28, 2005, Time magazine cover story on risque TV content titled "The Decency Police."
The article began: "The Parents Television Council believes that too much prime-time TV is indecent. So indecent that it never misses a show. In the group's Alexandria, Va., offices, five analysts sit at desks with a VCR, a TV and a computer. They tape every hour of prime-time network TV, and a lot of cable. 'CSI.' 'The Apprentice.' God help them, even Reba. And they watch. Every filthy second."
The article notes that when the FCC fined Fox $1.2 million for strippers in an episode of "Married by America," Jarvis filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the 159 letters of complaint the FCC said it had received about the episode.
"Because of multiple mailings," the Time story said, "the letters actually came from just 23 people, 21 of whom used a form. In other words, three people composing letters of complaint precipitated a seven-digit fine."
"NYPD Blue" was controversial during its decade-plus network run, but it also won many awards. When it went off the air in March 2005, the show business paper Variety ran a column that praised the show and selected the 10 best of its 261 episodes. The Feb. 25, 2003, episode was included among the 10 best.
It dealt with the suicide of the father of the NYPD detective played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar. When it originally aired, New York Daily News critic David Bianculli called it the best "NYPD Blue" episode in two years.
Early in the episode, a young boy, the son of Gosselaar's character, walks in on his dad's girlfriend, who is in the bathroom getting ready to shower. Addressing the issue with the FCC, ABC contended that the scene, which included shots of the woman's naked buttocks, was intended to "illustrate the complexity and awkwardness involved when a single parent brings a new romantic partner into his or her life." But the FCC wrote: "We find that the scene's depiction of adult female nudity, particularly the repeated shots of a woman's naked buttocks, is titillating and shocking."
The upshot of all this, of course, is that the brief scene with the nudity is widely available, out of context, to anyone with a computer. The episode itself, one of the best in series history, is much harder to find. Now that's indecent.