FCC fines ABC for airing Charlotte Ross’s naked butt in 2003

January 29, 2008

News: On Friday of last week, the Federal Communications Commission issued a $1.43 million “indecency” fine against ABC for airing the naked butt of actress Charlotte Ross on an episode of NYPD Blue in 2003. The fine is based on $27,500 per ABC affiliate stations that aired the show in Central time at 9 p.m. — 1 hour before broadcasters apparently can air naked rear ends on TV. (more from Wash Post)

Analysis: The FCC “indecency” rules need to be overturned. They are outdated in the age of the Internet and they seem nothing short of censorship masquerading as a legal rule. Although the Supreme Court in 1978 did uphold (in a plurality opinion) the FCC’s power to regulate “indecent” material broadcast on the airwaves (see Pacifica), in 2008 the basis for that decision is more and more suspect. Pacifica was based on the Court’s view (i) that TV has a “pervasive presence” in American homes and (2) is available to children. The Court upheld the FCC’s sanction against a radio for broadcast of George Carlin’s “filthy words” routine at 2 p.m. in the afternoon.

First things first: 9 p.m. is different from 2 p.m. in the afternoon.

Second, why is the FCC worried about something that happened in 2003? NYPD Blue no longer exists as a show.

Third, the Internet has, for many Americans, an equally pervasive presence that is available also to children in the same way as TV. Indeed, the lines between TV and the Internet have become increasingly blurred. Yet the thought of the U.S. government issuing fines for “indecent” content on the Internet would probably scare most Americans into thinking that the government was following the censorship policy of China.

Also, I wonder whether the FCC has been engaging in arbitrary enforcement of its “rule.” As I seem to recall, NYPD Blue used to routinely show naked butts on their show. The joke was that every actor would eventually have to show off their naked behind, including even Dennis Franz as Andy Sipowicz. I’m not sure if the FCC ever challenged ABC’s nudity in all those other shows. (Maybe it did, but I don’t think so.)

In the last day, clips of the “indecent” episode of NYPD Blue have been posted on YouTube.   Within 1 day, one clip received over 1 million views on YouTube–thanks to the FCC’s action in trying to regulate “indecency.”  You can judge for yourself what you think about the nudity in the clip and whether a $1.43 million fine is what you want the government to be handing down for such content. Of course, viewer discretion is advised.

Here’s a link to the NYPD Blue “indecent” nudity involving a naked butt.

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Turkey and Thailand look to censor YouTube

September 23, 2007

News:  Turkey just ordered YouTube blocked in its country in response to a video insulting Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  (More)   Not to be outdone, after banning YouTube for 5 months, Thailand wants YouTube to remove two videos that narrated “accuse General Prem Tinsulanonda, 87-year-old adviser to the widely respected King Bhumibol Adulyadej, of masterminding the coup in September 2006.” (More)


Is YouTube really “killing our culture,” as Andrew Keen says?

June 20, 2007

Book review: Andrew Keen has a book just out, provocatively titled, “The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture.” In the book, Keen launches into a tirade against YouTube, Wikipedia, the entire blogosphere, and all other user-generated or “amateur” content in our Web 2.0 world. Keen’s basic thesis is this: “[D]emocratization [on the Internet], despite its lofty idealization, is undermining truth, souring civic discourse, and belittling expertise, experience, and talent. … [I]t is threatening the very future of our cultural institutions” (15). Yes, according to Keen, YouTube is a big part of the problem.

Over the next few days, I’ll be reviewing this book. Today, let me begin with two points.

1. The rhetoric in the book. It’s filled with punchy writing and clever turns of phrase. The rhetoric is often fun to read, in part because it’s so over-the-top. But I think the rhetoric ultimately undermines Keen’s own message. Keen says he wants more detailed, reasoned professional analysis. But his own book sensationalizes stories and speaks with the same kind of overgeneralizations and rantings that Keen criticizes on amateur blogs. Keen is taking a contrarian view on Web 2.0, and because his book is being mass-marketed, he’s more likely to sell books if his position is more sensationalized or extreme.

2. Is Keen himself an amateur?: Keen decries the amateur and hails the professional expert as the source of “truth” (more on truth in a later post). But what kind of expert is Keen? From his own bio, he’s a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who once was a CEO of a dot com and who now is CEO of “afterTV LLC, a firm that helps marketers optimize their brand desirability in the post-TV consumer landscape.” Oh, and, of course, Keen has his own blog.

OK, so does that make Keen an expert in democracy, freedom of the press, journalism, the entertainment industry, the music industry, intellectual property, libel law, click fraud, identity theft, and child predators–topics all covered in his book? My point is not to attack Keen’s credentials, but to question his overall argument in his book–that “amateur” productions should be kept in check because they are ruining “our culture” (more on “our culture” later). If that were the rule, his book shouldn’t have been published at all.  The people at Doubleday should have edited out any bit of material for which Keen had no expertise.


LX.TV Lifestyle Television: making your own TV network, online

October 31, 2006

News: Elizabeth Holmes writes today in the WSJ about LX.TV, a website that plans to provide online programs for lifestyle and entertainment for the hip and fashionable.  The article is not freely available, but here’s a money line:

 “[The founders of LX.TV] hope to capitalize on the recent attention by coupling the Web’s cheap start-up costs and on-demand delivery system with a tried-and-true television formula: Find attractive young people.  Put them in front of a camera.  Surround them with expensive clothes, throbbing music, potent potables, fashionable nosh and more attractive, affluent young people.”

Analysis: The potential of a web network taking hold is exciting.  The start page for LX.TV seems a little slow to load, though.  Once I got to the videos, they were pretty slick.


Flash: TV shows go Internet

October 31, 2006

News:  USA Today has an excellent article, Networks work with Net, which discusses how the major networks are putting up more and more videos of at least some of their shows:  “In most cases, episodes are streamed starting the day after broadcast to give fans a chance to catch up on missed episodes and to attract new viewers. In a reverse twist, CBS’ Innertube site will air all seven episodes of canceled serial Smith and have the producers explain where the story was headed.”

ABC

NBC 24/7 video

CBS innertube

Fox on MySpace

The CW

Comedy Central

Analysis:  I just did a quick run through of each of the above sites.  They are getting slicker and slicker.  This is one of those watershed moments that we’ll look back on as being the start of something good.  Bye, bye, TV.


Video of the week: Is this the future of the Internet?

October 27, 2006