Entertainment

Eight of the most notorious FCC indecency cases [SLIDESHOW]

Every year, it seems a new, high-profile Federal Communications Commission case ends up in court.

The most recent dispute involves a $1.4 million fine the Commission slapped on ABC for a 2003 episode of “NYPD Blue,” in which actress Charlotte Ross’ rear end was visible to viewers. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that there is nothing wrong with Ross’ buttocks (we concur) and that the FCC’s indecency rules are “unconstitutionally vague and chilling.”

This wording echoes similar rulings — in favor of FOX over “fleeting obscenities” in 2009 and when in 2004 the FCC tried to fine CBS for the “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl halftime show that exposed Janet Jackson’s nipple — otherwise known as “Nipplegate.”  The court ruled that the Commission was wrong in holding the network responsible for the actions of Jackson and Justin Timberlake, who performed alongside her singing, “gonna have you naked by the end of this song.”

Since there have been so many FCC indecency cases to appear in the press, we compiled seven of the most famous cases to date, which have both shaped (and clouded) precedent today:

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  • The Federal Communications Commission proposed a $755,000 fine against Clear Channel Communications for the broadcast of "Bubba the Love Sponge" on four Florida stations in 2001.
  • Just last month, outgoing Gov. Charlie Crist asked for a posthumous pardon for Jim Morrison’s 'Miami Incident' -- when Morrison flashed his privates during a 1969 concert at Miami’s Dinner Key Auditorium ("You didn't come here for music did you? You came for something more, didn't you? You didn't come to rock'n'roll, you came for something else didn't you? You came for something else --WHAT IS IT?" ... then, apparently, he showed everyone). Crist said he doubted Morrison actually showed his (cough) area then and added that Morrison died before he was afforded the chance to appeal, so he was doing that for him.
  • What are the "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television”? Just ask George Carlin. In 1973, a man complained to the FCC after listening to a similar routine, “Filthy Word,” which, you guessed it, focused on cuss words. When the case reached the Supreme Court, by a vote of 5 to 4 they ruled that the routine was “indecent but not obscene” and the FCC could prohibit similar broadcasts during hours when children would normally be listening only.
  • In an episode titled, “Our Sons and Daughters,” CBS landed in hot water when they showed teenage sex orgies (wait what? That’s bad?) accompanied by extensive drug use. While fines were initially approximated at $3.6 million, CBS settled with the Commission for $300,000.
  • Easily the most notorious indecency case ever, "Nipplegate" was a result of when, during the Super Bowl half-time show on CBS in 2004, Justin Timberlake ripped off part of Janet Jackson’s top, exposing one of her breasts for nearly two milliseconds. What an expensive two milliseconds they were -- the FCC fined CBS $550,000.
  • Every party has a pooper, that’s why we invited you, FCC. This time, the Commission put their foot down on a FOX show called “Married by America,” which chronicled raunchy bachelor and bachelorette parties in Las Vegas hotels. In one 2003 episode, the FCC thought that showing partygoers licking whipped cream off stripper’s bodies was “sexually suggestive,” and as a result proposed a $1.2 million fine.
  • During an episode of “American Dad” in 2009, some viewers got riled up. The episode, titled “Don’t Look a Smith Horse in the Mouth,” features Stan masturbating a horse, then getting sprayed in the face with a garden hose. What’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, the Parents Television Council (ie. Debbie Downer) felt that the scene implied the horse ejaculating on Stan. Still no word on the amount of the fine, but you can be it’s going to be huge.
  • In the episode in question, Ross is caught off-guard, nude, by her love interest’s son.  The network, when confronted with the fine, explained that the scene was intended to "portray the awkwardness between a child and his parent's new romantic partner and their difficulties in adjusting to life together.” While we’re sure the FCC looked down on such an explanation, their real problem was that the show aired at 9 p.m. in central time zones, rather than at 10 p.m., which is the appropriate time to air such indecencies (or so they’d say). <a href=' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCIX1DKa_YQ/'>WATCH the clip here</a>.