Skip to main content

ACLU Lashes Out at FCC for NYPD Blue Fine

The American Civil Liberties Union, a longtime critic of government regulation of expression, labeled the Federal Communications Commission's latest fine -- for nudity on the long-canceled NYPD Blue -- "paternalism at its worst."

The FCC found that the 2003 broadcast -- which featured a woman's bare behind and a side view of partially covered breasts -- was "apparently indecent," then fined 51 stations a total of $1.4 million, its first proposed indecency fine since March 2006.

“This is just another government attempt to trump our own good judgment and determine what we’re mature enough to see," ACLU counsel James Tucker said in a statement Monday. "NYPD Blue aired well past the bedtime of most children -- at 10 p.m. in most markets. Only those affiliates that aired the program between the hours of 6 p.m.-10 p.m. would be subject to the fine, which just goes to show the fickle nature of the FCC’s rules. By their logic, airing a shot of a bare behind at 10:30 p.m. is fine, but the same shot at 9:30 p.m. is worth millions in fines and penalties."

He continued, “It’s also worth noting that ABC included a warning before NYPD Blue indicating that the program was intended for mature audiences only. Such warnings allow audiences to decide for themselves whether they want to see the content or permit their children to see the content. Instead, the government is stepping in to chill free speech and the free expression of ideas by ‘parenting the parents.’"

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.