FCC says soaps may need to be cleaned up

Posted Thursday, April 08, 2004 12:35:00 AM

In the wake of a half-time show giving new meaning to the term "boob tube," there have been concerns that daytime television might have become too racy.

Could Janet Jackson's infamous Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction" have a ripple effect on daytime television? According to a government official, soap operas have "become a potential target in the Federal Communications Commission's crackdown on broadcast indecency."

During last month's National Association of Broadcaster's summit on "responsible programming," Michael J. Copps, the FCC commissioner who recently began a crack down on adult-oriented radio programs like The Howard Stern Show, indicated that the FCC should begin reviewing whether soap operas violate the agency's indecency prohibitions.

"It was pretty steamy stuff for the middle of the afternoon," trade publication Television Week quoted Copps as having said.

Under FCC rules, over-the-air television and radio stations cannot broadcast material involving sexual and excretory functions between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., when children might tune in. The FCC does not regulate content that airs on cable and satellite television.

Phone calls to Copps were not returned, however, and aide tells Soap Opera Central that there has been no decision by the FCC to actively investigate soap operas or daytime television.

By now, nearly everyone has heard several times over of how singer Janet Jackson's breast was exposed during the halftime show of this year's Super Bowl. In interviews following the incident, Jackson has repeatedly said that the incident was an unfortunate accident. However, since the Super Bowl, much of the "live" has been taken out of live television - talk shows, awards shows and other live events have been broadcast on delays in order to prevent similar "accidents" from taking place.

Excluding a special week-long Sweeps event by One Life to Live in May 2002, soap operas have not broadcast live since Ronald Reagan was in the White House. With several weeks passing between the taping of an episode of a soap and its on-air broadcast, there is plenty of time for the networks to edit out anything that might be deemed objectionable.

Prior to the Jackson flashing, however, two CBS soaps actually aired the bare buttocks of two of its male stars. CBS also aired this year's Super Bowl. While seeing a bare behind on a primetime show such as NYPD Blue has become almost common place, seeing it during the daytime hours was something unheard until the Procter & Gamble-produced As the World Turns and Guiding Light did so earlier this year. While the brief nudity may have caught viewers with their, um, pants down, the network apparently green lighted the two pre-Super Bowl episodes.

Following the Super Bowl, Guiding Light execs reportedly toned down another love making sequence in which a female character was to have pulled down her boyfriend's pants and revealed his bare bottom. A week after the edited scenes aired, Guiding Light executive producer John Conboy was fired. While a CBS spokesperson has denied that the risqué scenes led to Conboy's dismissal, rumors persist that Conboy's insistence that the scenes remain unedited were a primary factor in his firing.

An FCC spokesperson was unable to say if the bottom-baring episodes generated any complaint calls.

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