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NYPD Blue's Expensive Rear View:

The Federal Communications Commission is proposing to fine 52 ABC stations $1.4 million for airing an episode of "NYPD Blue" in 2003 in which one scene contains "multiple, close-up views" of a woman's "nude buttocks." From the AP report:

FCC's definition of indecent content requires that the broadcast "depicts or describes sexual or excretory activities" in a "patently offensive way" and is aired between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

The agency said the show was indecent because "it depicts sexual organs and excretory organs , specifically an adult woman's buttocks."

The agency rejected the network's argument that "the buttocks are not a sexual organ."

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. The FCC's Linguistic Incompetence:
  2. NYPD Blue's Expensive Rear View:
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Well, I'm a linguist whose father is a medical doctor and I am confident that the buttocks are neither an excretory nor a sexual organ. In fact, they aren't an organ of any sort. Idiots.
1.26.2008 6:14pm
Donna B. (mail) (www):
I'm not a linguist and my father is not a doctor, but I too am confident that buttocks "are neither an excretory nor a sexual organ." That's a slippery slope (skin is an organ, if I understand correctly and it's very sensitive) that leads to wearing burkas.
1.26.2008 6:22pm
tarheel:
ABC should have been fined 10 times that (or perhaps shut down altogether) back in the first or second season when they showed Sipowitz in the shower. If that is not indecent and patently offensive, nothing is.

The 2004 butt shot -- of a very attractive female -- was nothing less than art. And ABC gets nicked for that?!

Good to see the FCC reacting rationally to the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction. (sarcasm alert)
1.26.2008 6:33pm
Mikey:
For goodness' sake. I thought the Puritans disappeared long ago.

The FCC's role in media regulation is a throwback to the 1930s era in which it was created. Perhaps some modernization is in order. Geez.
1.26.2008 6:40pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
If this were a movie, showing someone's butt would merit a PG. I understand the urge to keep really explicit stuff off the air but why must network TV be G-rated?
1.26.2008 6:45pm
Ken Arromdee:
The 2004 butt shot -- of a very attractive female -- was nothing less than art. And ABC gets nicked for that?!

Considering that you just mentioned it was a very attractive female for no particular reason, doesn't that imply that in this context the buttocks are sexual?

It's one thing to say that the FCC shouldn't be censoring anything sexual. But trying to defend it by claiming it isn't sexual is just silly.
1.26.2008 6:48pm
Belvedere jones:

I'd suggest the FCC's description is more indecent than the actual scene.
1.26.2008 6:55pm
BT:
Why did it take them five years to act on this? Our government at work.
1.26.2008 7:00pm
tarheel:
Ken Arromdee:

I was kidding. Relax.

Though if I had been serious, I would say that something being "sexual" and something being a "sexual organ" are two different things. A woman's hair can be sexual, but it is most certainly not a sexual organ.
1.26.2008 7:01pm
Thoughtful (mail):
If the buttocks is taken as a sexual organ, than we can only expect in the near future for the FCC to be ordering fines on network productions that show bare mouths...
1.26.2008 7:09pm
Moon (mail) (www):
Forget about all that -- I'm still trying to parse out how "activities" became "organs" (which is to say nothing about "patently offensive," which also is required by the reg). Shouldn't the FCC at least be forced to observe the plain language of its own regs, especially when those regs are downright draconian (as well as utterly vague)? Why bother issuing regulations if the standard's going to be "We know it when we see it, even if you don't"?

No wonder broadcast television stations can no longer compete in quality or maturity with their cable counterparts.
1.26.2008 7:13pm
Bender (mail):
As a fairly standard version of the American, heterosexual male, I am going to venture the opinion that the bare ass of a woman with a nice figure is a sexual turn on and the display of such on television is intended as sexual titilation and a test of boundaries. In Europe everything but full frontal nudity (and occasionally that) is standard now. If the FTC caved on this, T would follow A as surely as the sun rises in the east. Within a few years we'd be seeing Last Tango in Paris, uncut, during prime time viewing hours.

As a side note, it's amusing to note that one can view everything but pudendae and penises on certain cable programs devoted to studying primitive tribes in far off places. It reminds me of my youth, when horny adolescent males would pore over National Geographic for the occasional glimpse of a bared breast.
1.26.2008 7:28pm
Fub:
The NAL is here: Acrobat or Word.

The buttocks as sexual organ analysis is in FN 23:
Although ABC argues, without citing any authority, that the buttocks are not a sexual organ,[22] we reject this argument, which runs counter to both case law[23] and common sense.

23 See, e.g., City of Erie v. Pap's A.M., 529 U.S. 277 (2000) (Supreme Court did not disturb a city's indecency ordinance prohibiting public nudity, where the buttocks was listed among other sexual organs/body parts subject to the ordinance's ban on nudity); Loce v. Time Warner Entertainment Advance/Newhouse Partnership, 191 F.3d 256, 269 (2d. Cir. 1999) (upholding state district court's determination that Time Warner's decision to not transmit certain cable programming that it reasonably believed indecent (some of which included "close-up shots of unclothed breasts and buttocks") did not run afoul of the Constitution).
The "common sense" argument seems to be that buttocks are sexual organs because no case law says they aren't.

They're hitting the 52 stations for $27,500 each for not realizing that.

Now I wonder whether the FCC thinks a dog has four legs or five, since no case law says that a dog's tail isn't a leg.
1.26.2008 7:32pm
Scote (mail):
This is what happens when you let the science standards slide!
1.26.2008 8:05pm
GV:
Bender, I assume if you saw a very attractive women in a bathing suit, you'd also be turned on. Can network TV no longer show that?

This is dumb. The butt is not a sexual organ. If the only cases that support the FCC's position are those two it lists, it has zero legal footing for its position. In the first case, the word buttocks appeared in the statute, so there was no question whether the legislature intended to cover (pardon the pun) that part of the body in the statute. The second case invovled showing butt and breasts. Moreover, neither case dealt with defining what a sexual organ is.
1.26.2008 8:16pm
chrismn (mail):
Yes, the butt is not a sexual organ. Nor is it exactly an "excretory organ". But how do the smirkers here interpret the
ban on showing "excretory organs"? As long as they don't actually show a close up of an anus were fine? Or is the close up of an anus fine because that's an orifice and not an organ? Just don't show a colonoscopy?

"No bare asses" is exactly what any sensible reading of "no excretory organs" implies.
1.26.2008 8:30pm
whit:
should the language read "sexual BODY PART"? yes. it is correct, that technically speaking, the buttocks are not an organ.

i am also surprised the FCC did not cite the ultimate authority - Sir Mix a Lot.

i concur with Sir Mix, in that my anaconda don't want none if aint got buns.
1.26.2008 8:47pm
whit:
to give an SAT analogy:

Buttocks are to Anus as Vulva is to Vagina

buttocks are the body part that surrounds the anus. the latter is an excretory organ. the former is not

people frequently use the term vagina, when they should use the term vulva. but we still know what they mean

im the first to concede that the friggin FCC should just change the language if they want to be clear in their ban of nekkid butts, etc.
1.26.2008 8:52pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Bender: When I left the UK, the public debate wasn't over whether a the image of a penis could be broadcast, but over whether the image of an erect penis could be broadcast, and if so, whether before or after the 'watershed' hour of 9pm.
1.26.2008 8:52pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Folks, whether the the buttocks are a sexual turn on or not (and I will admit to being one who thinks they are) is irrelevant. The FCC's problem is that it seems to want to use a broad definition of what is not allowed but its own regulations are narrower and refer specifically to "sexual or excretory organs or activities".

In my opinion, the FCC's case law citations are not on point. My own discussion is over at Language Log.
1.26.2008 8:58pm
tarheel:
The mere fact that people are left to debate whether a bare ass is a "sexual organ" or an "excretory organ" is evidence of how bankrupt the FCC's indecency agenda really is.

Can we kill Red Lion yet? Please?
1.26.2008 9:41pm
Dude Cool (mail):
I know a lot of gay guys who think that the buttocks . . . ah, forget it.
1.26.2008 9:45pm
Lyle Kraft (mail):
"If the law supposes that," said Mr. Bumble,… "the law is a ass—a idiot. If that's the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience—by experience."
1.26.2008 9:59pm
NI:
Whether the buttocks are sexual organs is an interesting question. A far more interesting question is why the government persists in treating people like children. It isn't like people don't know what a bare butt looks like, or that parents who want to shield their children from such things would allow them to watch NYPD Blue in the first place. (I would be far more concerned about children being repeatedly exposed, and therefore desensitized toward, gratuitous violence than that they might occasionally catch sight of the human body.)
1.26.2008 10:33pm
NI:
Chrismn, your comment about not showing colonoscopies actually raises an interesting issue. Suppose there were a medical channel that wanted to show colonoscopies -- there are people who have colorectal cancer who might be interested in the subject. Or how to do self exams for breast or testicular cancer. Even though they would be performing a valuable public service, under the FCC regs I don't think they could. So American prudery basically keeps people from getting valuable information.

When I was last in Britain I saw a public service spot on television on doing self exams for testicular cancer. A prominent rubgy player was the demonstration model. Never in a million years would such a public service spot show on American television.

I know, I know, for every legitimate medical or science prgram that gets blocked there are a million soft porn shows like NYPD Blue that don't have such honorable motives. I'm not sure that's relevant.
1.26.2008 10:40pm
Pwdrhead (mail):
I suspect that, the men at the FCC definately consider the butt a sexual organ!!!
1.26.2008 11:02pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
A lot of people here are thinking that they are so clever by pointing out that the buttocks are not a sexual organ. In the strict sex of sexual reproduction, you are correct. But in the sense of being a part of the body that has substantial sexual arousal aspects of it for some viewers, you are utterly incorrect. By this same "gee, how clever we are" approach female breasts, being neither sexual nor excretory organs, don't deserve FCC censorship, either.

I have some really, really bad news for you clever sorts: most American parents are a bit prudish about stuff that their kids are going to watch. And I suspect that I am pretty typical. If there were a serious documentary about testicular cancer, or breast self-examination, or a documentary about a New Guinea tribe that runs around topless, I would not be upset about it. Neither would many other American parents.

But you have to draw a line somewhere to distinguish intentionally sexually provocative trash from something serious. Yes, the line may be drawn a little too prudishly for you intellectual sorts. But if the line were based on a subjective evaluation of prurient intent, you would be whining that the rules aren't objective enough--and just reflect the individual preferences of whoever makes the decision.

A few years back, my son was about sixth grade, I think. We turned on the TV one night, and on a local broadcast channel in the San Francisco Bay Area, we caught the beginning of what seemed to be a magician. Okay, it's not deep, but watching a good illusionist is better than staring at the wall after a long day of work.

It started out okay. The magician's assistant is a pretty gal wearing something with lots of sequins. Then, part way through a pretty traditional illusionist's act--she chains the magician to a board, strips off the sequin outfit--and she's dressed as a dominatrix, and pulls out a whip--and gets ready to go into a full S&M number at 7:30 in the evening.

Now, for intellectuals, this is doubtless very exciting--a chance to help the rest of us appreciate that real sexual pleasure involves the receiving or giving of pain. But you know what? If you warped, sick, and disgusting people really think this is necessary--it's about time to remind you who runs this country, and it isn't you.

Let me give you idiots a chance to think. If broadcast television was continually running shows that glorified beating to death homosexuals, or lynching black people, or portraying Jews as hook-nosed financial swindlers--and this was such a common theme that your only real choice wwas to just get rid of your television--you would be falling all over yourselves trying to find some way to come up with a legal justification for laws about this. Look at the enormous energy that liberals put into trying to stop violent television shows in the 1960s and 1970s (and with some legitimate reason for concern).
1.26.2008 11:29pm
Lonetown (mail):
Buttocks are muscles not an organ, let alone excratory organs.

This just sounds like poorly written regulation.

I blame law schools.
1.26.2008 11:54pm
Ex-Fed (mail) (www):
Eurgh. I've got spittle flecks on me.
1.26.2008 11:55pm
Morat20:
Clayton: Change the channel if you don't like it. You're smart enough to work that out. If you're waiting for TV to be bland enough that no one is offended, well, I hope you like static -- because even the freakin' Teletubbies generates complaints.

Now, back to the topic -- I suspect this fine popped up because the PTC (a religious astroturf organization) probably raised a stink about it. The FCC really needs to get a handle on what's a influx of unique complaints and what's an organized campaign led by a few people. If nothing else, if something isn't causing large numbers of Americans to complain without prompting by people with an agenda, then it's probably not an actual problem.
1.27.2008 12:45am
Elliot123 (mail):
"But you know what? If you warped, sick, and disgusting people really think this is necessary--it's about time to remind you who runs this country, and it isn't you."

Is it you?
1.27.2008 12:51am
richard gould-saltman (mail):
Gee, Clayton, you evidently get more interesting broadcast television than I do, and, evidently, as noted, you kept watchin', too. Interestingly, though , you don't describe anything which seems to stray within a mile and a yard of even the FCC's prudish limits.

Lady was "dressed as a dominatrix" you say; you don't say anything about "wardrobe malfunctions", so I'm guessing this means latex or skin-tight black leather with lots of buckles, spikes, etc, but not naked. (She wouldn't be dressed, then. . . ) Then, sez you, she got "ready to go into a full S&M number at 7:30 in the evening". What does that mean, in describing actual events? (Courtroom evidence 101: "Start to get ready to object when the witness says someone else 'got ready to' do X, or 'started' to do X") She cracked the whip? Told the host something like "kiss my boots, you sniveling cockroach!"? Fixed the scuffs on her pants with Kiwi shoe polish?

No nudity, no depiction or description of "sexual or excretory activities" in a "patently offensive way" . Sounds like it passes FCC muster!
1.27.2008 1:07am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Buttocks is a lot more than butt crack. (And plumber's crack is butt crack.)

Even if we allow that buttockses are sexual organs, and that sexual organs are sexual activity, just how much buttocks can't you show? Hot pants? Chaps? Thongs?
1.27.2008 1:38am
Mr. Liberal:

But in the sense of being a part of the body that has substantial sexual arousal aspects of it for some viewers, you are utterly incorrect.


Some viewers have foot fetishes and are turned on by the sight of bare feet. Disturbing but true.

You had better come up with a better standard.

This is lame fine. Give me a break.

If people like Clayton Cramer really were so concerned with what their kids were watching, they would learn to use the v-chip. I don't see why your laziness should result in the most outrageously prude standards for the rest of us.
1.27.2008 1:45am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Only a goverment agency would take FIVE YEARS to decide whether the sight of a woman's poterior was this or that, or akin to shouting "butt" in a naked theater.
1.27.2008 2:15am
NI:

Some viewers have foot fetishes and are turned on by the sight of bare feet. Disturbing but true.


I'm not sure why it would be disturbing that some people like feet; they do nothing for me, but then neither does sushi.

That aside, Mr. Liberal's point is well taken that virtually everything is a turn-on for someone. Maybe small children shouldn't be shown on television because they will arouse pedophiles. Some people have diaper fetishes, so I guess no more Depends commercials (which I could actually live with).

Oh, and by the way, anyone who thinks male nipples can't be used for pleasure doesn't get out very much.
1.27.2008 2:24am
John Burgess (mail) (www):
The FCC regs couldn't bring themselves to use 'erogenous zones' so they settled on 'sex organs' inappropriately.

Buttocks are certainly erogenous zones for many/most people. Buttocks are never sex organs nor excretory organs.

But when prudes like what Clayton thinks is appropriate for children define the lowest common denominator for social approval, then it's time for a major switch to non-FCC regulated programming.
1.27.2008 2:48am
eyesay:
See for yourself the 42-second segment of Charlotte Ross in Shower. In this segment, the side of the actress' left breast is visible for several seconds and multiple times. For those who are offended by the appearance of unclothed Homo sapiens, I would think that the mammary would be more disturbing than the glutei.
1.27.2008 3:59am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

But you know what? If you warped, sick, and disgusting people really think this is necessary--it's about time to remind you who runs this country, and it isn't you.


I wouldn't bet on that, Clayton: I've been a web architect since there was such a thing, and one of the little secrets of the job is that porn always runs into problems first. Why? Because lot and lots and lots and lots of people are using their computers to download porn.
1.27.2008 4:06am
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
The agency said the show was indecent because "it depicts sexual organs and excretory organs , specifically an adult woman's buttocks."

Evidently 2003 was a good year for rears. If those sphincters at the FCC are going to be hard-assed about enforcing their interpretation of the law, they're going to have to fine all of the stations that broadcast Katie Couric's colonoscopy, too ...
1.27.2008 4:12am
John Robert (mail):
I'm pretty sure I've seen every episode and I never saw it and never heard of it until now. But, then when I drive I tend to spend my time looking out the front window and don't dwell on the rear view mirror. OMG, I said "rear view".
1.27.2008 4:17am
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
Aw, heck. The guided tour of Couric's innards was broadcast in 2000; 2003 was the date of the followup press release to which I linked.

On the other hand, wouldn't the earlier broadcast of Katie's nether regions set the precedent?
1.27.2008 4:18am
eyesay:
Even if imposing a fine is the appropriate FCC response to this broadcast, the allocation of the fine is bizarre: $27,500 per station. The fine was $27,500 for WLS-TV, Chicago, IL, and the fine was $27,500 for KFBB-TV, Great Falls, MT. According to Wikipedia's Table of United States Metropolitan Statistical Areas, the Chicago metro area has a population of 9,505,748, more than 119 times the population of the Great Falls metro area, 79,385. As a matter of public policy, imposing the same fine for these two stations is bizarre for at least two related reasons. First, because fines ought to be in some way proportional to the number of individuals thought to be harmed. Second, because stations with huge audiences can command huge advertising fees, and will probably consider the fine to be negligible compared to the advertising revenue they can generate. Put another way, if the Chicago station believes that regular showing of titillating material generates a 1% increase in audience share, the increase in advertising revenue would easily pay the paltry $27,500 fine. Even assuming the FCC has a legitimate objective in discouraging "offensive" material by the imposition of fines, imposing an equal-sized fine for Chicago and Great Falls could easily result in more "offensive" broadcasts in Chicago, even if it results in less "offensive" broadcasts in Great Falls.
1.27.2008 4:29am
John Robert (mail):
Boy, do I feel like an idiot. I took it literally that the shot was seen in a rear view mirror. I just saw at Hot Air the scene in discussion. I remember that show very well.
1.27.2008 5:41am
Chukuang:
because even the freakin' Teletubbies generates complaints.

And some of those complaints probably came from Clayton himself.
1.27.2008 5:56am
Fub:
Morat20 wrote at 1.27.2008 12:45am:>

Now, back to the topic -- I suspect this fine popped up because the PTC (a religious astroturf organization) probably raised a stink about it. The FCC really needs to get a handle on what's a influx of unique complaints and what's an organized campaign led by a few people. If nothing else, if something isn't causing large numbers of Americans to complain without prompting by people with an agenda, then it's probably not an actual problem.
And sometimes when it is causing large numbers to complain it's not an actual problem either.
1.27.2008 7:20am
NI:
Eyesay, you have a point, although I suspect the prudes are more interested in keeping stuff out of Great Falls and have already written off Chicago.

But I'm wondering if the issue you raise would apply to other government sanctions as well. Suppose three people are stopped for speeding and get $200 tickets; one of them makes $10,000 a year, one makes $50,000 a year, and one is a movie star who makes $10 million a year. The first guy is going to be devastated, the second guy will be inconvenienced, the third guy won't even notice.

Or suppose three people commit a crime that carries a 10 year sentence. One is 18, one is 50, and the third is 70. Nobody would suggest that a 10 year sentence is anything other than a horrible experience, but the 18 year old will still have most of his life ahead of him at the end of it whereas the second guy will have enough of his life gone that he won't be able to recover, and for the third guy it will likely be a life sentence.

Or for one last example, suppose three guys commit murders in a jurisdiction that doesn't have the death penalty. All of them get life in prison. One victim was a child, one was a middle aged adult, and the third was an elderly man with no more than a few months to live in any event. The loss to the three victims is very different, yet their killers all get the same sentence.
1.27.2008 10:17am
Randy R. (mail):
"Because lot and lots and lots and lots of people are using their computers to download porn."

More than lots, actually. The dirty little secret about the internet? All those projections throughout the 90s and 00s about internet usage: Most of it was pornography, not buying books on Amazon.

Of course, Clayton is assuming that interest in buttocks and S&M is limited to gays, the perverted, and a few hipsters in urban environments. Everyone else, meaning good clean Americans who go to church on Sundays, just don't have any interest in that.

And of course, Clayton is wrong. Basically, whatever you can call 'sexual perversion' is something participated in by a majority of people, who wever they are. So please get off your high moral ground -- it's isn't very high.

Nonetheless, Clayton does have a point. There are indeed Americans who are concerned about what their kids see on tv, and I admit sometimes I cringe a little bit when I see stuff, whether it's on tv or cable, and I wouldn't want my nephew or niece seeing it. But that's the job of parents -- to teach kids about sex, have a healthy (meaning nonrepressive) attitude, but also monitor what their kids are watching. The FCC, at a minimum, shouldn't be concerned about what Americans see, but what children see.
1.27.2008 10:53am
Randy R. (mail):
Another issue: Why isn't the FCC at all concerned with blood, gore, violence, guns and killing? To me, exposing children to that is far more damaging that seeing some buttocks.

Why is loving a person considered morally decrepit, but killing a person is cool?
1.27.2008 10:56am
McCarroll (mail) (www):
So I suppose now Beavis must work alone and Butt-Head is a goner. What a disaster.
1.27.2008 11:39am
TruePath (mail) (www):
I'm about as opposed to government decency regulations as one gets but I still can't bring myself to agree that a reasonable person reading the regulation wouldn't have found it plausible that buttocks were covered. Anyone raised in this culture has a sense of what people mean when they use one of the euphemisms like "sex organs" or "erogenous zones." It's no more relevant that female buttocks are not an 'organ' used for 'sex' then the fact that G.I. Joes are not literally 'toys' who are 'soldiers' (they aren't real soldiers) is to their status as toy soldiers.

The real problem here (aside from the regulations in the first place) is that even though you might think that buttocks MIGHT be included you don't get to go ask first since the FCC bizarrely feels that offering guidance would be prior restraint but that giving very vague and arbitrary warnings is not.
1.27.2008 12:40pm
athEIst (mail):
The buttocks were "of an attractive female." I get it; "attractive buttocks, NO, ugly buttocks, OK.
1.27.2008 1:40pm
Elliot123 (mail):
I have had the solution for years. It's a small handheld device about half the size of a paperback book. Buttons allow me to control the TV, cable box, and Tivo. It allows me to change channels, and even turn everything off without ever leaving the comfort of my couch and M-16.

I can even block particular channels and shows, and set the system so adults have to enter a simple password to open up everything, while the kids are limited to a smaller set of channels and shows. This is particularly useful so I never even accidently tune to the Home &Garden channel or Life TV. The upcoming Oprah channel may also be a candidate.
1.27.2008 1:49pm
Robert West (mail) (www):
Even assuming the FCC has a legitimate objective in discouraging "offensive" material by the imposition of fines, imposing an equal-sized fine for Chicago and Great Falls could easily result in more "offensive" broadcasts in Chicago, even if it results in less "offensive" broadcasts in Great Falls.

It's possible that's the socially optimum result.
1.27.2008 2:25pm
Brian K (mail):
Another issue: Why isn't the FCC at all concerned with blood, gore, violence, guns and killing? To me, exposing children to that is far more damaging that seeing some buttocks.

Why is loving a person considered morally decrepit, but killing a person is cool?


You can thank people like clayton for that one too. a gun in every pocket but the world is going to hell if even a glimpse of a butt is seen by anyone.
1.27.2008 2:53pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Clayton: Change the channel if you don't like it.
I did change the channel. And yes, it would be really nice if:

1. Parents were using V-chip and other technologies to achieve these ends.

2. Parents were actually supervising what their kids were watching. But a lot of parents aren't home.

I'm curious: is there anything that you wouldn't have a problem seeing broadcast? Maybe explicit depictions of torture, eyeballs gouged out, drills through the testicles, that sort of thing?


But when prudes like what Clayton thinks is appropriate for children define the lowest common denominator for social approval, then it's time for a major switch to non-FCC regulated programming.
You already have it. Cable TV doesn't have these limits on it. These are public airwaves, subject to regulation by the government.


Of course, Clayton is assuming that interest in buttocks and S&M is limited to gays, the perverted, and a few hipsters in urban environments. Everyone else, meaning good clean Americans who go to church on Sundays, just don't have any interest in that.
I make no such assumption. I know that there are a lot of straights who find buttocks erotic.

What adults want to watch is their business--but I am pretty sure that even a lot of adults who watch porn aren't comfortable with their kids being exposed to sexual provocative material at 7 and 8, or even 13 or 14. There are appropriate ages for a lot of materials. I wouldn't show films of the concentration camps to 7 year olds, for example.

The FCC, at a minimum, shouldn't be concerned about what Americans see, but what children see.
And that's what drives the FCC regulations. There are a lot of unsupervised kids out there, and more than a few parents who seem completely oblivious to the destructive effects of having their 4 and 5 year olds watching material (especially of a very violent and graphic nature) that is simply a bad idea.

I can even block particular channels and shows, and set the system so adults have to enter a simple password to open up everything, while the kids are limited to a smaller set of channels and shows.
Fine. But what do you do when television shows are inaccurately portrayed? For example, what appears to be an illusionist that turns into an S&M demonstration?



because even the freakin' Teletubbies generates complaints.



And some of those complaints probably came from Clayton himself.

Nope. The only complaint that I have ever sent was to a cable TV company because they were running very, very graphic documentaries about serial killers at 5:00 PM.



Gee, Clayton, you evidently get more interesting broadcast television than I do, and, evidently, as noted, you kept watchin', too. Interestingly, though , you don't describe anything which seems to stray within a mile and a yard of even the FCC's prudish limits.

Learn to read. I turned it off when she pulled out the whip. And yes, the San Francisco Bay Area is fully liberal--signs offering inflatable sheep for sale on the sidewalk; penis enlargement surgery ads on the radio. The notions of self-restraint or governmental restraint are both very passe there.


Lady was "dressed as a dominatrix" you say; you don't say anything about "wardrobe malfunctions", so I'm guessing this means latex or skin-tight black leather with lots of buckles, spikes, etc, but not naked. (She wouldn't be dressed, then. . . ) Then, sez you, she got "ready to go into a full S&M number at 7:30 in the evening". What does that mean, in describing actual events? (Courtroom evidence 101: "Start to get ready to object when the witness says someone else 'got ready to' do X, or 'started' to do X") She cracked the whip? Told the host something like "kiss my boots, you sniveling cockroach!"? Fixed the scuffs on her pants with Kiwi shoe polish?

No nudity, no depiction or description of "sexual or excretory activities" in a "patently offensive way" . Sounds like it passes FCC muster!
Yup. It's a reminder that even with FCC rules, it is possible to produce some pretty offensive stuff. And your solution is to abolish the few rules that are left?


"But you know what? If you warped, sick, and disgusting people really think this is necessary--it's about time to remind you who runs this country, and it isn't you."


Is it you?
It is people who agree that there are materials that do not belong on broadcast TV. That's why Congress and the FCC have passed laws and regulations controlling nudity and offensive language on public airwaves. You don't like it, of course, but those laws weren't passed because a few thousand Americans are upset, but because most Americans have enough sense to recognize that there are appropriate limits on broadcasting.
1.27.2008 3:04pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Clayton,

Just go to Best Buy and get one of those remotes that lets you control what everybody else watches. I think they are called Universal Remotes and are manufactured by In Loco Parentis. They sell for about $10.
1.27.2008 4:19pm
vincenzo (mail):
Since the FCC regulators' physiology is such that their brains are in their buttocks, it is only natural that they define the buttocks as an "organ". People always say the brain is the largest sex organ, so there you go...
1.27.2008 5:32pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
I'm curious: is there anything that you wouldn't have a problem seeing broadcast? Maybe explicit depictions of torture, eyeballs gouged out, drills through the testicles, that sort of thing?

I'm curious: Why do you think that a broadcaster would get away with soliciting and/or paying for the performance of illegal activities? They're not undercover cops performing a sting operation, you know.

Further, I don't quite understand the reverse situation: Why should it be illegal to depict an activity that is perfectly legal to perform? Kids in locker rooms see far more than bare buttocks. Granted, many parents might not want their children seeing bare buttocks and various other bits and pieces of human anatomy. Don't let them watch TV shows that depict nudity, keep them out of nudist camps, and don't let them shower after gym class in junior high school or change into swimsuits in the locker rooms of public swimming pools. A warning at the beginning of the TV show and in TV Guide listings for the program, plus the use of the v-chip to take care of viewers who channel-surf, would seem me to be sufficient.

Televisions are now sold with v-chips as a mandatory measure to protect The Children. Analog broadcasts will soon end, and all digital receivers will have embedded v-chips. If certain people choose not to make use of the censorship capabilities that they already have, what right do they have to force their preferences on the rest of us?
1.27.2008 5:41pm
Brian K (mail):
And that's what drives the FCC regulations. There are a lot of unsupervised kids out there, and more than a few parents who seem completely oblivious to the destructive effects of having their 4 and 5 year olds watching material (especially of a very violent and graphic nature) that is simply a bad idea.

i see now that all the "nanny state" objections to liberal legislation is pure hypocrisy. you don't seem to have a problem with nanny states in general.
1.27.2008 6:06pm
en pointe:
That's the stupidest thing I've ever seen. A woman's ass as a sex organ? They need to look up the definition of "organ".
1.27.2008 6:28pm
TruePath (mail) (www):
Clayton:

Given what the government can't (in light of SCOTUS precedent) restrict during TV programming it's pretty significant that there is nothing particularly bad on TV. Private action is actually pretty effective against shows that most americans find truly offensive. The reason the government has to be involved in stopping female buttocks on TV is that most of the US isn't offended and a large segment likes it.

Okay you think some of this shit is bad for children and don't want your kid seeing it. Well I don't but I do think that many of the religious messages on TV now are harmful to children (it sure as hell wasn't sex on TV that made me think I had to imagine marrying girls in my mastuerbatory fantasies). So what kind of rule or policy consideration tells us that it's desirable for the government to protect children from naked women on TV but not from sunday morning preaching, the 700 club or UFO/bible 'documentaries? Do you have compelling studies showing perhaps that female buttocks on TV cause lower grades in school while 'history' shows that lie/mislead to avoid the inconvenient fact that there was no roman census around the time of jesus's birth don't? Do you have ANY objective standard that tells us nudity is special but when the pro-sex godless atheists win the elections we can't push your stuff off the air?

This would already be an epitome of governmental abuse if you were merely demanding to use the coercive power of the state to impede others rights so you wouldn't have to view their 'immoral' behavior. But that's just what happens when I am required to pay extra for a TV with a V-chip that I don't want or need to cater to your special interest. What you are demanding now is that our right to free expression be curtailed just so you don't have to figure out how to use the V-chip.

---

BTW if you don't like that dominitrix stuff go move to another city. That's the beauty of federalism. See SF, filled with godless hedonic atheists like myself has a certain set of community values (like enjoying the sisters of perpetual indulgence) and we should be just as free to express them in our local TV region. If you don't like these values move somewhere else or buy a satellite dish and figure out how to use the V-chip.
1.27.2008 6:33pm
TruePath (mail) (www):
Just as an aside does anyone know if there has been any as applied chalenge to the government anti-drug advertising laws.

As I understand it these laws work by requiring each TV broadcaster to donate a certain (large and expensive) chunk of ad time to various public/private anti-drug groups. However, this time is usually waved IF the network instead adds enough minutes of anti-drug themed events/plots, i.e., shows someone flunking out of school b/c of drugs or losing their boyfriend.

So far there might be a passable argument this is just a roundabout way of the government purchasing it's own message. However, as I understand it shows are most certainly not evaluated for sufficient amount of anti-drug message in a vacuum. In other words if I'm a network producing CSI and I leave all of my anti-drug themed episodes as they are but replace every other episode with a virulently pro-drug message that mocks the previous episodes as required government propaganda I'm likely to find that I don't get as many equivalent time minutes. Thus the government is not merely purchasing time for it's own view to be heard they are actually implicitly threatening the networks with loss of revenue if they advocate pro-drug messages in their shows.

Maybe it's the special "except drugs" clause Alito seems to have found in the first ammendment.

----

Ohh one other side remark. What really annoys me about this whole prudishness campaign is the slimy way in which it lets a minority wield unreasonably large political power.

The problem is that a very large number of people probably like seeing this stuff on TV and think it's not a big deal and shouldn't be banned. However, getting up and making a big fuss and fighting for your right to see naked chicks makes you look like a sleazy, sex-crazed pervert (Larry Flint has nothing to lose) effectively squelching animated resistance to the matter.

People don't like to have to lie. People also don't have to tell their mother or aunt or whatever that they want more sex on TV. Thus just a few puritans in the population can very effectively create voter apathy and a desire to just ignore the issue and thus implement policies that the majority likely disfavors.
1.27.2008 6:49pm
TruePath (mail) (www):
Clayton:

Don't confuse the question of what people like me want on TV and what we think is acceptable for the government to mandate to be on TV.

There is a lot of stuff I really really don't think should be on TV and a lot of it is on now. Science/history programs that misrepresent the evidence and theories for higher ratings is pretty high up there on my list but I don't think the government should be in the business of barring it's broadcast.

Sure many people might say they would prefer if their kid didn't see buttocks but they don't care enough for it to be worth the bother of setting up the v-chip. I mean the 'keeping the kid from seeing buttocks' priority seems well below the 'put the cap back on the milk' and the 'don't put jello in the dog's hair' priorities. Hardly the sort of thing to jeopardize free speech over.

Frankly I don't understand what difference it is supposed to make that many parents feel uncomfortable with their kids seeing buttocks? I mean what is your opinion about the billions of people on this globe who feel uncomfortable if their children see American college girls wearing shorts? Do you:

1) Think that the US should ban women with shorts TV because there are multitudes around the world who object a few of which live in the US.

I presume you don't think this.

2) The US shouldn't ban shorts because the prevailing cultural standards in the US don't view this as over the line. In other words each area should set it's own standards based on the prevailing cultural norms in the area even if a few people find it uncomfortable.

However, in this case presumably the same thing applies to SF and if you happen to be in a minority of more sexually conservative individuals in the area then you need to move or deal just like conservative muslims in the US.

3) Showing buttocks and showing bare legs are difference because it is somehow objectively reasonable to think that it's bad for children (regardless of the cultural standard) to see bare buttocks in a sexually appealing way but it's not objectively reasonable to think it's bad for childen to see women in shorts looking hot.

In other words your opinions about allowable exposure are objectively correct and conservative muslims are wrong.

-----

I suspect you want to argue 3 (it's the only position that coherently supports the point's you've made). However, in this case you need arguments that show that somehow buttocks are objectively harmful in a way that the girl's toned thighs in the soloflex commercial are not. In other words you need to show you are right not that lots of other people agree with you.

Finally I want to point out that often sexual topics are uncomfortable and people wish to avoid them even though there is no harm being done. I mean I still find watching very sexually charged movie scenes with my parents uncomfortable even though I'm engaged now and I doubt their innocent young minds are being harmed. Quite frankly most of us (probably for partially biological reasons) don't like to imagine our parents/offspring in a sexual fashion be it details of their sex lives or merely seeing them stare at some half-naked chick on TV. I would argue that parents are so averse to their children seeing sexual content not because they have good reason to believe it is harmful to the children but because they don't want to think (in a non-abstract way) of their sweet young baby as a sexual being nor have an awkward conversation about it.
1.27.2008 8:18pm
Elliot123 (mail):
The greatest defeat for the Bluenoses was the V-chip mandate. After years of claiming they represented the overwhelming majority of American parents, they found that nobody cared about the V-Chip. parents didn't use it, and they repesented nobody but themselves.

It's even worse now. With the move to cable, it's much easier for parents to exert control over the TV viewing of their kids. But, again, nobody cares, few do it, and the Bluenoses are left with no support.

I predict their next target will be cable TV. They will object to Americans freely purchasing TV service because they purchase things the Bluenoses don't like. In years past they objected to people freely writing and reading books. We are dealing with the same bunch today. In may cases, their support for the Second Amendment just doesn't make it over to the First Amendment.
1.27.2008 8:40pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
Brian K wrote:

i see now that all the "nanny state" objections to liberal legislation is pure hypocrisy. you don't seem to have a problem with nanny states in general.

All the objections? Horse manure, Brian! Have you really not noticed that nearly all of the discussion here is harshly critical of the FCC?
1.27.2008 10:51pm
Brian K (mail):
Mike,

you're missing some context there...my tongue-in-cheek comment was made in reply to clayton.
1.28.2008 4:11am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
EyeSay - thank you for the pointer to the video clip. I have studied it extensively, repeatedly, and with freeze-frame. I think I see the problem now.

I have two boys. For years I have been trying to explain to them what a closed bathroom door means. I have said "Do you really want to walk in and see me naked?" If they had seen this clip it might have undone all that work.
1.28.2008 8:07am
Richard Gould-Saltman (mail):
Sez Clayton:

Gee, Clayton, you evidently get more interesting broadcast television than I do, and, evidently, as noted, you kept watchin', too.
. . . .
Learn to read. I turned it off when she pulled out the whip.


Nah, I read right good already.

Clayton said that the "gal" pulled out a whip, and then that she did that other, unspecified "getting ready" stuff .

Apparently he watched the gal doing additional "getting ready for S&M" for at least long enough to recognize it/conclude that's what is was, and to exclude the possibility that maybe she was just aiming to do some precision bull-whip-crackin', ala Lash LaRue, (he did call her a "gal"), maybe followed by some fancy roping tricks. Kinda like Will Rogers?
1.28.2008 1:11pm