Walt Disney's ABC Network has come under the line of attack by the Federal Communications Commission, five years after airing an obscene NYPD Blue episode and will be fined a collective $1.43 million.
The FCC filed the case on Friday saying the network had aired an offending episode of a woman's bare rear on February 25, 2003. The program was shown at 9 p.m. in the Central and Mountain time zones which violates federal time restrictions. The commission's policy does not allow obscene material to be broadcast between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., when children are likely to be watching.
The FCC didn't fine all the ABC Network's 200-plus stations, only 52 ABC outlets as those stations ran the show. Each of the stations will be fined $27,500 per each episode. ABC's East and West Coast affiliates weren't charged fines, since they broadcast the episode at 10 p.m., after the period for which the FCC can fine stations.
The NYPD Blue episode that has put ABC in the spotlight included the scene of a side and back shot of a naked woman getting into a shower while a young boy walks in and sees her. Due to the underage boy in the scene, the FCC said it received numerous complaints about the discomfort it caused.
This is the largest fine since the $500,000 fine originally imposed by the FCC on CBS stations for the Janet Jackson breast-revealing incident during the 2004 Super Bowl.
An ABC statement responded: When the brief scene in question was telecast almost five years ago, this critically acclaimed drama had been on the air for a decade and the realistic nature of its storylines was well known to the viewing public. ABC feels strongly that the FCC's finding is inconsistent with prior precedent from the Commission, the indecency statute and the First Amendment, and we intend to oppose the proposed fine.
Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate said Friday that the episode in question does not respect current regulations for primetime broadcast TV. If a broadcaster makes the decision to show indecent programming, it must air between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. This is neither difficult to understand nor burdensome to implement.
ABC feels strongly that the FCC's finding is inconsistent with prior precedent from the Commission, the network said, and argued the public are familiar with the realistic nature of its storyline's. ABC said it plans to appeal against the fine.