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