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Powell wraps FCC into ABC-NFL promo

Web could be slapped with a fine for indecency

NEW YORK — ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” promo, featuring the seduction of a Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver by star Nicolette Sheridan in Monday’s NFL telecast, has raised the ire of FCC chairman Michael Powell.

In an on-air interview with CNBC’s Alan Murray on Wednesday, Powell accused ABC of producing programming that’s “hot and steamy in order to get financial gains and the free advertising it provides.”

An FCC spokesman said the commission has received numerous emails and phone calls disapproving of the scene. The next step for the commission is to request a tape of the material from ABC.

If the commission finds the complaint is valid, it could begin an investigation into whether ABC has crossed the boundary of good taste and should be slapped with a fine for indecency.

In the vignette, which ABC Sports put together to cross-promote both “Monday Night Football” and its hit primetime comedy/drama “Desperate Housewives,” Sheridan, draped in nothing but a bath towel, vamps wide receiver Terrell Owens in the Eagles’ locker room. He resists until she sheds the towel and falls into his arms.

ABC had no comment on Powell’s critique. On Tuesday, ABC said, “We apologize” for what the network called an “inappropriate” scene. But ABC’s apology was triggered more by its sensitivity to the wrath of the National Football League than to that of the FCC. The NFL put out its own statement Tuesday decrying the Sheridan spot as “unsuitable for our ‘Monday Night Football’ audience.”

The contract between the NFL and ABC/ESPN for both Monday night and Sunday night games is up for renewal, and delicate negotiations are under way.

ABC is a division of Disney, and Powell had the last word about the Sheridan/Owens tape: “I wonder if Walt Disney would be proud.”

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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