In what the Baptist Press has called the “most significant broadcast indecency case since 1978”, the Supreme Court has been in the process of deciding how much autonomy to allow the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) when regulating displays of nudity and indecency in films.
As things currently stand, the FCC has legal power to penalize broadcast companies that violate federal indecency standards. However, many broadcast companies are not happy with this, and have objected to FCC’s findings against ABC’s NYPD Blue program, following complaints from viewers that the program contained far more nudity than is normally allowed on broadcast television.
Since television broadcasts are considered public spaces, many believe the government has a responsibility to protect us from indecent content in much the same way the authorities can intervene if someone decides to walk naked through the middle of town. The broadcast companies, on the other hand, have gone to the courts in a bid for more freedom, decrying the imposition of ‘censorship.’
Behind the surface issues relating to the balance between federal responsibility and broadcast freedom, a deeper question has been percolating: what’s wrong with nudity in public spaces anyway?