It finally happened, folks! The FCC has just released a steamy batch of decisions concerning alleged cases of indecency on television. After cooking in the ever-efficient bureaucratic easy-bake for up to 4 years, the feds made up their minds regarding pending TV complaints at long last.
We urge you to thumb through the decisions (and footnotes for added comic relief): 2004 Superbowl Halftime (aka nipplegate) | Without a Trace | Batch Decisions (aka Omnibus, including The Surreal Life 2, Billboard Music Awards, The Blues: Godfathers and Sons, The Simpsons, etc.), so that you can laugh along with us. Then cry. Here's a wrap-up of what the FCC's been discussing for the past year or so (your tax dollars at work)...
- Simulated teen sex and making out (no nudity) between hetero couples, girl in bra and panties engaged in implied group sex, all during a flashback segment for a rape investigation (Without A Trace, CBS). Pricetag: $3.6 million! Because teens don't have sex. Or get raped. Ever.
- Split-second of exposed nipple (2004 Super Bowl, CBS). Pricetag: $550,000!
- Pixelated breasts, the kissing of pixelated breasts, spanking, pixelated nude women, and Ron Jeremy's mere presence (The Surreal Life 2, Pool Party Episode, WB). Pricetag: $27,500.
- Non-nude rape scene (Con El Corazon En La Mano, Telemundo). Pricetag: $32,500.
- Topless woman with pastie-covered nipples (Fernando Hidalgo Show, WJAN in Miami). Pricetag: $32,500.
- Visual and vocal allusions to masturbation, thong-clad women bump-n-grind, spanking, vocal allusion to anal sex, female-female breast and butt-fondling, fully-clothed oral sex simulation, fully-clothed lap dance (Video Musicales, Aerco TV, Puerto Rico). Pricetag: $220,000.
- Repeated utterances of "fuck" and "shit" in a non-Saving Private Ryan broadcast (The Blues: Godfathers and Sons, documentary produced by PBS, aired on non-commercial community college station KSCM-TV). Pricetag: $15,000.
- Shit, holy shit, horseshit, bullshit, oh shit, shit-eating, owl shit (The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper, KTVI-TV, St. Louis). Pricetag: $27,500.
What could be more entertaining than an entire federal commission utilizing tons of public resources over long periods of time to mull over the merits of the term "wang" and argue over whether Janet's pastie-covered nipple was exposed for 19/32 or 9/16 of a second (I told you to read those footnotes)?
Fuck and shit are ok in a broadcast of Saving Private Ryan, but not a blues documentary? Brief, fleeting frontal nudity is ok in a broadcast of Schindler's List, but not during the Super Bowl halftime show or a talk show? Pixelation just isn't enough to protect the public from naked boobs? Non-nude scenes that merely imply sex aren't kosher any longer?
And let's not even begin to pierce the surface of the glaring racial and gender politics weaved into these decisions...
If the double-standards don't cloud the definition of indecency further, be sure to read each commissioner's individual statements. Only one out of four FCC members even mentions concerns about restricting first amendment rights. Thanks Mr. Adelstein, for publicly recognizing that the FCC's current methodology of assessing indecency fines is seriously flawed.
If CBS doesn't pay off the $3.9 million fine to the FCC in the next 30 days, the commission will probably file a suit against the network with the Justice Dept., and this issue might finally make it to federal court! The illusion that most Americans are deeply offended by what they see on TV (over 90% of actual complaints to the FCC can be traced to few extreme christian groups with large e-mail lists), and that shaky definition of indecency might finally be shredded to pieces by CBS's lawyers.
Now take a looksie at what newest Commission member Deborah Tate has to say. Setting a bad precedent for her next 4 years of service on the commission, Ms. Tate has a problem with cartoon sexuality. She feels that cartoons are vehicles for subliminally exposing children to nefarious content, siting the scantily clad cartoon women on the Simpsons (not determined indecent, see below).
More Decisions released yesterday...
Indecent, but no fine levied:
- "Fuck 'em," as uttered by Cher. Non-sexual fuck. (2002 Billboard Music Awards, Fox).
- "Have you ever tried to get cow shit out of a Prada purse? It's not so fucking simple," Nicole Richie. Though in this case, the "shit" spoken of was indeed an excretory shit, "fucking" was non-sexual. (2003 Billboard Music Awards, Fox).
- Dick, dickhead: not indecent. Bullshit: indecent. (NYPD Blue, ABC).
- Bullshitter. (The Early Show, CBS).
Still OK for TV, but someone complained anyway:
- Hetero adult couple in bed kissing, caressing and rubbing against each other under sheets (Alias, WJLA).
- Jesting breast adjustment (Will and Grace, NBC).
- Implied female doctor's hand touching male patient's scrotum during a hernia exam (Two and a Half Men, CBS).
- Suggested genital grabbing: a female helping a male character hit high notes while singing the national anthem (Committed, NBC).
- Casino showgirls jumping onto the bed of a clothed man (Golden Phoenix Hotel & Casino commercial, KRNV).
- One-off references to sodomy and rape (Political Ad, KDSK and KDNL).
- Brief background shot containing graffiti that reads "Fuck Cops!" (The Amazing Race 6, CBS).
- Penis talk on the Family Guy: wang, little banana, other euphemisms.
- Chris Rock telling people to "sit their asses down" during the Academy awards, proclaiming that Superman "sucked", and visual innuendo to oral sex.
- Hamster masturbation, coined "hamsterbation" (8 Simple Rules, ABC).
- Partial penis exposure during news coverage of a man being rescued from a flood (The Today Show).
- Alleged Smithers-stripper butt-grab on the Simpsons. Duh, Smithers only has eyes for Mr. Burns.
- Naked infant falling on top of his pacifier, it gets stuck between his butt-cheeks (America's Funniest Home Videos, WHAM).
- Moon mime during a football game (no pants were actually removed).
- Man shoots wife during therapy session (Medium, NBC).
Here are some blatantly un-profane words and phrases that some folks complained about to the FCC:
- pissed off
- up yours
- for Christ's sake
- kiss my ass
- fire his ass
- ass is huge
- wiping his ass
- for me to poop on
UPDATE (3/30/06): Indeed, the FCC fucked up on the safe harbor issue (read comments for background). Fines were just rescinded for 8 CBS affiliates who aired the episode of "Without A Trace" in question at 10pm (within safe harbor hours). Contrary to the FCC's claim in Section III.19 (below) of their decision regarding "Without A Trace", the commission actually did issue a fine to some stations who aired the material during safe harbor:
Although we are informed that other stations not mentioned in any complaint also broadcast the complained-of episode of "Without A Trace," we propose forfeitures only against those licensees whose broadcasts of the material between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. were actually the subject of viewer complaints to the Commission.
Another fine example of federal foot in mouth...
Thanks to Harry Cole for his expert opinion.