January 26, 2008


The FCC issued a $1.43M fine against ABC for a 2003 episode of NYPD Blue. The episode contained shots of a woman's backside as she was getting into the shower.

Yes. The episode aired almost 5 years ago. It's like we live in a highly inefficient Iran. If you're going to have a committee for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice, you might wanna try to get that work done within the half-decade.

Also interesting, only ABC affiliates in the Central and Mountain time zones have to pay the fine. I had hoped this was because the FCC had determined the coasts were too indecent to worry about. Unfortunately, it's because the episode showed after 10p out here. In Civics class, we never covered the "Butts are ok after 10p" clause of the first amendment.

Finally, my favorite thing about this story is that the FCC determined the broadcast was indecent because "it depicts sexual organs and excretory organs — specifically an adult woman's buttocks."

ABC tried to argue that the buttocks are not, definitionally, a sexual or excretory organ. The FCC responded by saying "Although ABC argues, without citing any authority, that the buttocks are not a sexual organ, we reject this argument, which runs counter to both case law and common sense."

Aren't you dying to see the case law on this?


chestery said...

Seriously. I mean...they're not even an organ, period.

On a related note, I was delighted to discover that, after 10PM (apparently), basic cable channels are allowed to dispense with censoring "fuck" and its variants. Which have made insomniac viewings of Friar's Club roasts way, way more fun.

chestery said...


By the FCC's wording, I think ABC would have had to show the woman's actual rectum to violate the rules. And, even then, only in regard to excretory organs. The matter of the rectum being a sexual organ probably matters from state to state, depending on sodomy laws...

Jason Goldman said...

I think the anus would be sufficient to count as an excretory organ. If you're showing rectum on TV, I hope to God it's a medical program.

Good point about the sodomy though. I wonder how the Bush Administration would come down on the "is the anus a sexual organ" question.

chestery said...

Mm. I've never understood the whole anus vs. rectum thing.

Also: if the anus is a sexual organ and you can't show it, then I think that means that you can't show people's mouths either.

Jason Goldman said...

Another excellent point. And you wouldn't be able to show belly button either! Or wait - is that just me?

The policy seems to be "you can't show naughty bits" but they've tried to couch it in terms of some incorrect anatomical standard.

It's some quality nonsense.

chestery said...

Okay, last thing -- and after this, I'll stop spamming your blog with anatomy/physiology juvenalia:

If you take the whole "excretory organ" thing literally, then every TV show aired before 10PM would have to have all of their characters swaddled up in full-body latex suits, including gimp-style zippered headpieces...because the skin, period, is an excretory organ.

So, yeah...they should just have a "naughty bits" list. But, even then, I would find it amusing to see them delineate precisely what constitutes a violating display of the buttocks (haha). Like...totally unclothed buttocks, fine. But what about g-strings? What about just skimpy bikini bottoms?

Ben said...

Holy fuck, what is up with these people and how do they get these jobs?

Yes, anus is excretory organ, ok fine. But the buttocks are innocent bystanders IMHO, caught in a fight that isn't theirs.

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