FCC Denies Three-Dozen Smut Complaints

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The FCC Monday tossed out 36 indecency complaints filed by the Parents Television Council against prime time network programming that aired between Oct. 29, 2001 and Feb. 11, 2004.

The shows included some of TV’s most popular and longest-running shows, including The Simpsons, Will & Grace, Friends, Dawson’s Creek, NYPD Blue and Gilmore Girls.

There were no CBS shows in the list, all of whose complaints were expunged by the FCC as part of a consent decree.

PTC complained because dialog during episodes in question included words like “dick,” “vaginal,” “hell,” “orgasm” and “penis.”

Others featured sexual innuendo or implied sexual activity.

In one targeted episode of Boston Public, a teacher calls a student “a big dick.” In an episode of Scrubs, a female patient moans with pleasure while a female doctor gives her a pelvic examination.

The FCC ruled that the dialog and activity described in the complaints were too fleeting or insufficiently graphic to warrant a fine.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps long a critic of what he sees as lax FCC indecency enforcement, dissented in part and criticized the commission’s decision to lump so many complaints together for “no apparent rhyme or reason.”

In his own view, some complaints should have been found indecent if voted on individually. He singled out ABC's The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer, in which two women and a man are depicted in bed together. All three are under the covers and no sex organs or activities appear on screen. In another scene, the side of a maid’s breast is seen while she undresses in front of a male character.

Copps said some broadcasters complain the commission has not adequately explained what specific language and depictions will warrant a fine. 'Today's rather cursory decisions do little to address any of these concerns," he said.

Following are some of the examples of what the FCC does not consider indecent.

  • “Fastlane,” September 18, 2002, 9 p.m. EST:one character threatens another by stating:“…in my next life I’m coming back as a pair of pliers and pull off your nutsack."
  • ““Girls Club,” October 28, 2002, 9 p.m. EST:a female character remarks:“I’m not feeling too sexual these days . . . . Especially here, I’m having a little trouble with one of the power dicks.”[4]
  • “Dawson’s Creek,” October 30, 2002, 8 p.m. EST:one character remarks to another:“Listen, I know that you’re pissed at your dad for flaking on you.It doesn’t mean he’s a bad dad, and it doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. Another character responds:“No, it just means he’s a dick."
  • “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,” January 8, 2003, 8 p.m. EST:musical number during which the title character’s naked torso and genital area are blocked by objects, furniture, and, in one instance, by his hands. Later scenes include the use of the phrase “fat bastard,” and the word “testicles."
  • “NYPD Blue,” April 8, 2003, 9 p.m. CST:a character states:“That dickhead in a wheelchair.”
  • “Friends,” May 1, 2003, 8 p.m. EST:a female character and her husband encounter the husband’s former girlfriend at a medical office. After a conversation concerning fertility treatment, the female character says that she has to go because she’s got “an invasive vaginal exam to get to.”
  • “Scrubs,” November 13, 2003, 9:30 p.m. EST:in one scene, there is a discussion among a male character, his fiancée, and her brother in which the male character antagonizes the brother by telling the fiancée he wants to “love her up and down and all around,” and that they should “go put some more of your footprints on the ceiling.” The brother reacts angrily, saying “that’s it you son of a bitch.” In another scene, a male doctor tells a female resident that he would rather listen to her “go on and on about the joys of dolphin sex.”
  • “Gilmore Girls,” November 18, 2003, 8 p.m. EST:in one scene, a character’s grandfather reminisces about college pranks involving nudity; in another scene, two current college students discuss the night the male student spent nude in a dorm hallway. There is also another scene in which a female character listens to a brief message on her answering machine in which a male caller makes a reference to “growing a pair.”
  • “Will & Grace,” November 20, 2003, 9 p.m. EST:a male character studying to become a nurse remarks to a male friend that he’s taken his own blood pressure many times, to which the friend replies, “yeah, and how many times on your arm?” ater, the nursing student tells his fellow students that “he can name all the bones in the human penis.”
  • Night of Too Many Stars,” May 31, 2003, 8 p.m. EDT: Comedian Dana Carvey, reprising his role as the Saturday Night Live character, “Church Lady,” says to the actor Macaulay Culkin:“…then we jumped on the puberty train and got all tingly . . . we want to fornicate, so we thought it would be nifty to get married when we were twelve." Dana Carvey later discusses Michael Jackson and says of him:“Did he ever dangle anything in front of you at the sleepovers?. . . Say, his happy man-loaf? . . . When he moon walked, he didn’t moon you as he walked, did he?. . . Did he ever get into Billy’s jeans?”[9]Another character asks whether “his [Jackson’s] shalonthaz [sic] ever rose up to salute you?You never played hide the toast?”
  • “The Next Joe Millionaire,” October 28, 2003, 8 p.m. EST:the complaint alleges that a character says “fuck off. Based on our review of the tape, however, this description is inaccurate in that no character appears to utter the quoted language.

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