Back in 2003, ABC aired an episode of NYPD Blue that had a shot of a woman's bare butt and a side shot of her breasts. It was risque, even for NYPD Blue, but still within the FCC's requirements for nudity and it aired after 10pm, in compliance with the FCCs regulations.
Last Friday (four years after the episode aired on television) The FCC looked back at this incident and decided that the scene was "apparently indecent" and fined 51 different ABC affiliates a total of $1.4 million for airing the episode.
Why the sudden change of opinion?
Because the FCC was hounded by a self-righteous, puritan gestapo known as the Parents Television Council. A watchdog group that feels its their duty to tell everyone what they should and shouldn't watch on TV.
The offending clip is after the jump.
Here is the clip from the show that the FCC decided was indecent:
The FCC fined each station that aired the episode $27,000. This was the maximum fine that could be levied at the time. The fine has since been increased to $325,000.
This move has naturally been praised by the Parents Television Council:
“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,” said Tim Winter, president of the PTC.
In light of the FCC's belated bitchslap against the offending television stations, the ACLU has stepped up and tried to defend the stations for airing the program (which aired with a large warning on the head of the show, stating it was for mature audiences and letting audience members choose for themselves what content was considered offensive):
“This is just another government attempt to trump our own good judgment and determine what we’re mature enough to see," ACLU counsel James Tucker said in a statement Monday. "NYPD Blue aired well past the bedtime of most children -- at 10 p.m. in most markets. Only those affiliates that aired the program between the hours of 6 p.m.-10 p.m. would be subject to the fine, which just goes to show the fickle nature of the FCC’s rules. By their logic, airing a shot of a bare behind at 10:30 p.m. is fine, but the same shot at 9:30 p.m. is worth millions in fines and penalties."
This is not the first time the PTC has had their self-righteous little fingers stirring up the dust. In 2006, CBS was slapped with a fine from the FCC for airing an episode of "Without A Trace" in which a character had a flashback to a crime that takes place in the middle of an after-school orgy (only in Hollywood). There was no nudity displayed whatsoever, but the PTC felt that the implied sexuality of the scene was enough to warrant the salvo of complaints to the FCC. What is interesting about this is the fact that when the episode originally aired, the FCC didn't receive one complaint about it. It was only after someone in the PTC watched a re-run and voiced a concern to the group. The PTC orchestrated their letter writing campaign and badgered the FCC into taking action.
That's how the PTC operates. Someone within their gang decides that some program violates their definition of decency and puts out the call. The PTC then posts a generic complaint letter to the FCC on their website, and someone has to do is fill in their personal information to the form and hit "send" to instantly transmit the complaint directly to the FCC.
Needless to say, they had a field day when Janet Jackson had her little wardrobe malfunction.
The FCC tends to only act on an issue if it gets complaints and the PTC is good and complaining. In 2004 Mediaweek reported that of the 240,000 complaints about indecency to the FCC, 99.8% of them came from the Parents Television Council.