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FCC’s “NYPD Blue” fine: The inanity of the argument indicts the process

The most entertaining parts of FCC indecency rulings are often found in the fine print of footnotes.

Tuesday’s decision upholding the $1.2 million in fines the Federal Communications Commission has levied against 45 ABC affiliate stations for a 2003 seg of “NYPD Blue” is no exception (click here to read it yourself).

The FCC works itself into a lather defending its decision regarding a roughly one-minute scene in the Feb. 25, 2003 seg “Nude Awakening” featuring a close-up and pan shot of actress Charlotte Ross’ bare derriere and a more fleeting sideways shot of her breasts.

The context of the scene is the awkwardness of single parenthood, as the young son of Dennis Franz’ long-suffering Det. Andy Sipowicz walks in on his paramour in the bathroom as she’s about to take a shower.

Reasonable people can debate whether the dramatic moment demanded that the camera linger quite as long as it did on Ross’ behind. (For the curious, clips of the scene in question are readily available on Internet vid sites.) But having a governmental body declare it “patently offensive” and “shocking and titillating,” and then mete out punishment to stations that chose to air the seg is squirm-inducing for many of us on an entirely different level.

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