WJLA Washington says it will feature demonstrations of breast self-examinations without obscuring any body parts during a four-part series in the 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. news over the next two days (Oct. 29 and 30).
"Touch of Life: The Guide to Breast Self Examination" is in conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, according to station spokeswoman Abby Fenton, director of community relations. It also comes in the first days of the November sweeps period, when ratings help determine ad rates for stations.
"This unique television event will include a clinical demonstration of a breast self-exam without obscuring any of the breast area," the station says in bold, underlined type in the release announcing the series. News series involving mammograms or self-examinations are not unusual and blurring is standard practice, but the station said its news team discovered that many women don't know how to properly perform the test.
"I don't think the sweeps piece is as important as the fact that we are doing a piece about breast cancer because we have figured out that women in this area don't know how, when or how often, and that is really what we are getting at," says Fenton.
And what of the appearance that it could be a stunt? "It's irrelevant," she says. "If people want to take it as a sweeps piece, that is their business. But we're also doing something that is really important to women."
The series will include an interview with Elizabeth Edwards, fighting her own battle with cancer, and will be supported with a phone bank in partnership with Inova Breast Care Institute.
Fenton says there will be a "viewer discretion" content advisory.
Ironically, one of the first casualties of the FCC's indecency crackdown on nudity after Justin Timberlake bared too much of Janet Jackson's anatomy was the fleeting view of a female breast in a hospital setting, which was blurred on an episode of ER after affiliates expressed concern.
There should be no such issues with a news show, however. While news is not exempt from indecency enforcement, it has a much higher bar, and the 11 p.m. airing would be in the FCC's safe harbor for nudity (10 p.m.-6 a.m.).