Court Tosses Out Indecency Fine for ‘NYPD Blue’ Nudity

by | January 4, 2011 at 3:31 PM | TV News

Charlotte Ross of 'NYPD Blue' (Photo: YouTube)

Charlotte Ross of 'NYPD Blue' (Photo: YouTube)


A court decision concerning an “indecency” case brought against “NYPD Blue” illustrates the problems that arise whenever the Federal Communications Commission tries to enforce its rules governing what’s acceptable or unacceptable to show on broadcast television.

The fines the FCC tries to impose are almost always overturned on appeal, as in this case, where a federal court in New York has just “thrown out” a fine levied almost three years ago against Disney, owner of ABC, for an “NYPD Blue” episode that aired way back in 2003.

According to a story on Broadcastingcable.com, the court found that the FCC’s rules governing various aspects of program contents – in this case, a “fleeting” glimpse of Charlotte Ross’ bare derriere – are “unconstitutionally vague” and, therefore, “impermissible.”

In the opening scene of the episode titled “Nude Awakening” that aired in February 2003 during the series’ 10th season, Ross was seen nude from the rear and partially from the side. The scene involved Theo Sipowicz (Austin Majors), young son of Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz), encountering his dad’s girlfriend, Connie (Ross), in a bathroom where she was preparing to take a shower.

It took the FCC five years, after receiving complaints from watchdog groups, to assess fines totaling $1.21 million. The fines were to have been divided among the 44 ABC affiliates that aired the episode. In its story posted Tuesday, Broadcasting & Cable reported that ABC has already paid the fine because, apparently, the company had to pay the fine in order to appeal it.

It’s incredible to consider that the scene in question here aired nearly eight years ago, and a federal court was still considering this case up until now. Moreover, the TV business evolves so quickly that it’s hard to even remember what TV was like eight long years ago. One wonders if a nude scene such as the one in “Nude Awakening” would even attract attention today.

What do you think? Should the FCC just give up on policing the airwaves for “indecency”? Or should they try and enact rules that won’t get dismissed every time they come to court?