Saturday, February 23, 2008

ABC pays FCC fine for NYPD Blue for KODE, KSPR, other affiliaties, appeals decision

ABC forked over $1,237,500 to cover the fine levied to the network and its affiliate stations for airing a 2003 NYPD Blue episode that was considered indecent. Paying the fine allowed the network to appeal the decision:

"ABC today filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit challenging an order by the Federal Communications Commission, which found that a 2003 episode of the award-winning drama NYPD Blue violated the FCC’s indecency rules," the network said in a statement announcing the move.

"ABC contends that the FCC order is arbitrary and capricious, contrary to the commission’s own standards and past decisions and in violation of the indecency statute and the First Amendment,” ABC added. “In its order, issued Tuesday, the commission assessed a total of $1,237,500 in fines against 45 stations that carried the program, including two ABC-owned stations (WLS Chicago and KTRK Houston) and 43 other ABC affiliates.”

The company concluded, "While strongly opposed to the fines, ABC today paid them in their entirety in order the make the FCC decision appealable. The ABC Television Affiliates Association also opposed the FCC’s NYPD Blue indecency decision and says it intends to support ABC’s appeal."

The offending scene was described in the FCC decision:

The complaints refer to a scene at the beginning of the program, during which a
woman and a boy, who appears to be about seven or eight years old, are involved in an incident that includes adult female nudity. As confirmed by a tape of the program provided by ABC, during the scene in question, a woman wearing a robe is shown entering a bathroom, closing the door, and then briefly looking at herself in a mirror hanging above a sink. The camera then shows her crossing the room, turning on the shower, and returning to the mirror. With her back to the camera, she removes her robe, thereby revealing the side of one of her breasts and a full view of her back. The camera shot includes a full view of her buttocks and her upper legs as she
leans across the sink to hang up her robe. The camera then tracks her, in profile, as she walks from the mirror back toward the shower. Only a small portion of the side of one of her breasts is visible. Her pubic area is not visible, but her buttocks are visible from the side.
The scene shifts to a shot of a young boy lying in bed, kicking back his bed
covers, getting up, and then walking toward the bathroom. The camera cuts back to the woman, who is now shown standing naked in front of the shower, her back to the camera. The frame consists initially of a full shot of her naked from the back, from the top of her head to her waist; the camera then pans down to a shot of her buttocks, lingers for a moment, and then pans up her back. The camera then shifts back to a shot of the boy opening the bathroom door. As he opens the door, the woman, who is now standing in front of the mirror with her back to the door, gasps, quickly turns to face the boy, and freezes momentarily. The camera initially focuses on the woman’s face but then cuts to a shot taken from behind and through her legs, which serve to frame the boy’s face as he looks at her with a somewhat startled expression. The camera then jumps to a front view of the woman’s upper torso; a full view of her breasts is obscured,
however, by a silhouette of the boy’s head and ears. After the boy backs out of the bathroom and shuts the door, the camera shows the woman facing the door, with one arm and hand covering her breasts and the other hand covering her pubic area. The scene ends with the boy’s voice, heard through the closed door, saying “sorry,” and the woman while looking embarrassed, responds, “It’s okay. No problem.” The complainants contend that such material is indecent and request that the Commission impose sanctions against the licensees responsible for broadcasting this material.

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