That means that more than 40 affiliates will have to pay $27,500 each -- by Thursday -- for airing the Feb. 25, 2003, episode, which the FCC deemed indecent for including a shot of actress Charlotte Ross' naked butt. The total fine will be about $1.2 million.
A handful of stations initially named in the case were let off the hook. KTKA in Topeka, Kan., and KFBB in Great Falls, Mont., have had their broadcast licenses renewed since the offending episode aired, meaning the commission's statute of limitations to issue a fine has expired. Several others, including affiliates in Missouri, Wisconsin and Arkansas, were not fined because the complaints about the episode didn't come from viewers in their local markets.
The FCC issued its initial finding on the "NYPD Blue" episode last month, saying that the depiction of Ross' bare backside constituted "explicit and graphic depictions of sexual organs," which falls outside the decency parameters the commission sets. ABC and the affected stations argued that they weren't given enough time to respond to the complaint -- 17 days instead of the usual 30 -- and claimed that the scene wasn't intended to shock viewers, which is another test the FCC applies in indecency rulings.
The commission rejected those arguments and upheld the fine. All the affected stations are in the Central and Mountain time zones and aired the episode at 9 p.m. Affiliates in the Eastern and Pacific time zones weren't affected because they aired the episode at 10 p.m., when indecency rules are a little more lenient.