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'Monday Night Football' intro not indecent, FCC rules

By The Associated Press
03.15.05

WASHINGTON — Federal regulators ruled yesterday there was nothing indecent about a steamy introductory segment to ABC's "Monday Night Football" featuring actress Nicollette Sheridan jumping into the arms of football player Terrell Owens.

The segment that aired last November showed Sheridan in a locker room wearing only a towel and provocatively asking the Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver to skip the game for her. She then dropped the towel and leaped into Owens' arms.

Only Sheridan's upper back was exposed and no foul language was used — in fact, the scene was no racier than what's routinely seen on soap operas. But ABC said it had received complaints from viewers who thought it was inappropriate.

The network, Owens and Eagles all apologized. The Federal Communications Commission opened an investigation after receiving many complaints. But the five-member panel unanimously ruled the segment did not violate federal indecency standards.

"Although the scene apparently is intended to be titillating, it simply is not graphic or explicit enough to be indecent under our standard," the commission said.

While agreeing with the decision, Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps criticized ABC for airing the segment at a time — 9 p.m. EST — when many children were watching.

"There wasn't much self-discipline in this particular promotion," he said. "As stewards of the airwaves, broadcasters can and should do better."

Federal law bars nonsatellite radio stations and noncable television channels from airing certain references to sexual and excretory functions between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., when children are most likely be tuning in.

Though the federal indecency statute has been on the books for many years, the FCC has considerably boosted enforcement in the last 18 months. The watershed event came in February 2004 when Janet Jackson's right breast was briefly exposed during the Super Bowl halftime show.

The FCC wound up proposing a $550,000 fine against CBS, which broadcast the Super Bowl. The network is appealing. After the Jackson incident, some networks began using a broadcast delay on live programs to catch any offensive material before it aired.


Related

House again votes to hike indecency fines

Lawmakers overwhelmingly approve bill 389-38, rejecting criticism that stiffer penalties would stifle free speech, expression and further homogenize programming. 02.17.05

'Saving Private Ryan' not indecent, FCC rules
ABC's airing of war film had prompted complaints; 66 affiliates didn't broadcast it, fearing accusations that it was indecent, though commissioners had already ruled it was not. 03.01.05

FCC proposes $3.9 million in fines for indecent TV programming
Record fine would punish CBS for episode of 'Without a Trace' crime drama depicting teen orgy. 03.16.06

Super Bowl antics prompt debate about broadcast decency
Janet Jackson incident could have 'galvanizing effect' on the move to toughen standards, says FCC commissioner. 02.06.04

Flashpoint: Janet Jackson and government regulation of TV
By Ken Paulson It's a mistake to undermine free expression just because of the crassness of a Super Bowl halftime show. 02.06.04

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