ABC Affiliates Appeal FCC Indecency Fines

The FCC may have overreached in seeking to levy $1.4 million in fines for showing a woman's bare buttocks.

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ABC Affiliates Appeal FCC Indecency FinesBy David Sullivan

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The 50 ABC television affiliates slapped with fines for airing an "indecent" episode of 'NYPD Blue' in 2003 have filed an appeal with the FCC.

On Jan. 25, the FCC ordered the stations to pay a total of $1.4 million in fines for broadcasting the episode containing a seven-second glimpse of a woman's bare buttocks.

Lawyers for the ABC stations argued in their appeal that the FCC should reverse the decision because the “simple depiction of nonsexual nudity” is not indecent by law or community standards.

According to Broadcast & Cable, the appeal states that the FCC's action is “rife with procedural infirmities; is predicated on form complaints that do not satisfy the commission’s own policies; proscribes material outside the scope of the commission’s indecency-enforcement authority; misapplies the commission’s own multifactor test for patent offensiveness; is inconsistent with the commission’s governing precedent at the time of broadcast; and reaches a result that is plainly unconstitutional.”

Central to the FCC's definition of the 'NYPD Blue' scene as "indecent" is the idea that the buttocks are "a sexual or excretory organ." The affiliates' appeal helpfully provides a detailed medical description of the buttocks, proving for the record that the butt is "neither a sexual nor an excretory organ.”

The appeal further notes that the FCC failed to measure the scene's alleged "indecency" by community standards in any of the 50 broadcast markets, making the fines "arbitrary and unconstitutional.”

Publish Date: February 12, 2008