First Amendment

2nd Circuit Tosses FCC Fine for Female Nudity on 'NYPD Blue'


ABC television stations won’t have to pay a combined $1.21 million penalty for broadcasting an NYPD Blue episode with a shot of a female character’s nude buttocks.

A New York-based federal appeals court ruled (PDF) on Tuesday that the nudity policy created by the Federal Communications Commission is unconstitutionally vague, according to Reuters and the Associated Press. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the NYPD Blue case turns on the same context-based indecency test it struck down last year in a case involving “fleeting expletives” uttered in two music award broadcasts.

The 2003 NYPD Blue episode featured a butt shot of character Connie McDowell as she was readying to shower at the home of her boyfriend, a detective. McDowell is embarrassed when the detective’s son walks in on her.

Tim Winter, president of The Parents Television Council, blasted the decision. “This ruling will only serve to embolden the networks to air even more graphic material,” he said in a statement quoted in the stories. “The inclusion of the lengthy and ogling scene was intended to pander and titillate. This was a clear breach of the decency law.”

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