It’s highly likely that you’ve long since forgotten about a 2003 episode of NYPD Blue that featured a naked woman—in much the same way that it’s impossible to determine which eroded rock first led to a civilization-swallowing sinkhole—but the FCC has a steel-trap memory for such things, which is why it’s been tied up in court pretty much since Dennis Franz was still a thing, trying to enforce a $27,500 penalty it levied against ABC and each of the 45 affiliate sessions who broadcast it.
But today the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan threw out the collective $1.2 million fine, saying it falls under the same decision it reached last July regarding the FCC’s fine for “fleeting expletives.” According to the ruling, the court sees no distinction between Bono uttering “fucking brilliant” at an awards show and a lingering shot of actress Charlotte Ross’ ass, and that the FCC’s process of deciding in which contexts such occurrences are permissible is still “unconstitutionally vague.” As such, the penalty has been nullified, and once again the FCC is left to try appealing the decision and defend its right to set decency standards.
Predictably disappointed by the ruling—predictable to the point where it already had an extensive shaming prepared—the Parents Television Council pulled out its usual think-of-the-children!, we’re-all-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket-of-naked-people guns:
“Children and families are the real victims today. This ruling will only serve to embolden the networks to air even more graphic material," said Tim Winter, president of The Parents Television Council… “In this instance, ABC intentionally chose to air a scripted visual depiction of a fully naked woman before 10 p.m. There was absolutely nothing fleeting or accidental about it… The inclusion of the lengthy and ogling scene was intended to pander and titillate. This was a clear breach of the decency law. And now, nearly eight years after the episode aired, ABC is told it doesn't have to abide by the law."
Lawyers for ABC were then totally sad—because now that the federal court has told ABC that they don’t have to abide by the law, those poor lawyers are out of work—yet they somehow managed to put on a brave face and say that no, this will definitely not serve to embolden the networks to air even more graphic material, because we’ve just spent the last eight years talking about a butt on NYPD Blue and a glimpse of Janet Jackson’s areola. Why the fuck would the networks ever want to go through all of that again?
And now, a lengthy and ogling clip of a naked Charlotte Ross, intended to pander and titillate.