NYPD Blue Moons The FCC With Court Approval

A good day for freedom of speech as the censorious FCC loses its case trying to levy a fine for a naked butt on NYPD Blue:

NEW YORK – The Federal Communications Commission cannot fine broadcasters for showing a woman’s nude buttocks on a 2003 episode of “NYPD Blue,” a federal court ruled Tuesday, citing its earlier decision to strike down FCC rules regarding fleeting expletives uttered on live broadcasts as unconstitutionally vague.

The 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan decided Tuesday to nullify a $27,500 penalty that the FCC imposed on ABC and 45 of its affiliate stations after the image was broadcast on the police drama for less than seven seconds in February 2003. The combined fine was greater than $1.2 million.

The appeals court said its finding was consistent with its decision last year that TV stations can no longer be fined for fleeting, unscripted profanities uttered during live broadcasts.

The FCC had created its fleeting-expletive policy after a January 2003 NBC broadcast of the Golden Globe Awards in which U2 lead singer Bono uttered the phrase “f—— brilliant.” The FCC said that word in any context “inherently has a sexual connotation” and can lead to enforcement.

Fox Television Stations, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., and other networks challenged the policy in 2006 after the FCC cited the use of profanity during awards programs that were aired in 2002 and 2003. The FCC has appealed that ruling.

In its Tuesday ruling, a three-judge 2nd Circuit panel wrote that there was “no significant distinction” between its decision in the expletives case and its findings in the “NYPD Blue” case.

“According to the FCC, ‘nudity itself is not per se indecent,’” the judges wrote. “The FCC, therefore, decides in which contexts nudity is permissible and in which contexts it is not pursuant to an indecency policy that a panel of this court has determined is unconstitutionally vague.”

When I was a religious teenager and NYPD Blue was a new show I remember a huge uproar, at least in the religious circles I moved, about the fact that they would be showing Dennis Franz’s naked butt in the opening show.   That’s all I knew about the show for years, and in my teenage religious days I just naively assumed that must have been all the show was about (though I imagine now that it was rather irrelevant in the grand scheme of things—though I’ve still never seen the show and can’t confirm, maybe it really is a whole show about Dennis Franz’s butt.  Can anyone confirm or deny?).

Glad to see NYPD Blue is now the show to officially moon the FCC with Court approval.  It’s earned the right.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • JRQ

    I have long maintained the problem with network TV is a dearth of naked butts.


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