Is obscured nudity a basis for a finding of broadcast indecency? The FCC has been sitting on two such cases dating back to 2003. Now it has another, courtesy of "America’s Next Top Model" on CW. PTC makes no bones about it: It finds the program in question indecent and is encouraging its members to protest.
In the offending sequence is said to be a blurred shot of a model posing nude on a bed for a photo shoot. It aired 3/26/08 in a program beginning at 8PM Eastern, well in advance of safe harbor.
"It is irresponsible for the CW Network to air full frontal nudity on the public airwaves at 8:00 pm, and based upon our analysis of the broadcast in question we believe this has crossed the legal threshold for broadcast indecency. This episode portrays a photo-shoot where the model is entirely naked; and the nudity includes the model’s pubic region in full view, albeit slightly blurred," said PTC President Tim Winter.
"This is not simply a matter of artistic freedom, as some might claim," he continued. "Rather, this is about a television network intentionally pushing the envelope to establish a new acceptable nudity standard for the broadcast medium. The entire photo shoot scene, which lasted for more than a minute, is wholly gratuitous and undoubtedly intended to titillate."
PTC has initiated a click-and-send complaint campaign directed to the FCC, which includes both a clip of the sequence and a still of the "most indecent frame."
RBR/TVBR observation: But Mr. Winter, it IS about artistic freedom and pushing the envelope. Artists have been pushing the envelope just about since art began — and you need journey no farther than the average public art museum to see full two- and three-dimensional nudity proudly on display without content labels of any kind. Often, this art has a religious theme to boot.
And just where is the line? It has never been clearly drawn, because it can’t be clearly drawn. What we’re talking about here is obscured nudity; we could also be talking about implied nudity. We could also be talking about near nudity — ever been to a beach?
The two networks with pending cases, Fox and ABC, are both protesting, and the FCC has just taken Fox to court, so maybe the judiciary will find a way to shed some light on this question. But probably not.
Personally, if we were producing "America’s Next Top Model," we would probably steer clear of this issue. We don’t think the great Renaissance masters are in any danger of being upstaged by the artistic merit of your average CW program, and doing something just to see if you can get away with doing it isn’t the greatest motivation we can think of. But we don’t know CW’s motivation, nor so far as we know is there any rule against showing obscured nudity. Maybe we’ll get a definitive answer soon, but don’t bet on it.