The Parents Television Council thinks the boob tube is finally living up to its name.
A new study by the media watchdog group found that instances of "full nudity" on television are up 407 percent this season. The study, released this week, looked at depictions of nudity that involved nude bodies obscured by pixilation or carefully placed objects a la "Austin Powers." Comparing the number of implied nude scenes in prime time broadcast television this season with last season, the group found what it called a "shocking spike in full nudity." The analysis excludes animated nudity or suggested full nudity, the report said, and only includes scenes in which individuals are "completely unclothed and only the sexual organs are blurred from the viewer."
An implied nude scene by actress Krysten Ritter is one of many such instances that has the Parents Television Council worried.
In its report, the PTC cited several specific examples of implied nudity, including an April episode of ABC's "Don't Trust the B," in which Krysten Ritter's character "saunters into the kitchen completely nude." Ritter's breasts are pixilated in the scene, and yet, as TheWrap's Tim Malloy pointed out on Thursday, the actress was not actually nude when the scene was shot -- rather she wore undergarments that were later hidden by the pixilation. The PTC also cited similar scenes on "The Office," "America's Got Talent," "The Bachelor" and even "Betty White's Off Their Rockers." In each case, the instances of nudity were merely implied.
Nevertheless, the PTC is concerned by the increase of such instances. In all, this season, it found 76 instances of implied nudity on 37 programs, compared to 15 instances on 14 programs the previous year. The findings prompted PTC president Tim Winters to fire off a letter to congressional members asking them to urge the Federal Communications Commission to move forward in clearing what it said was a backlog of 1.6 million indecency complaints.
"The networks have made it abundantly clear they have no intention of respecting either the broadcast licenses they've been granted or the public in whose interest they are licensed to serve," Winters wrote. "Therefore the American people, whose values are being assaulted on a nightly basis, must insist that the Federal Communications Commission vigorously enforce broadcast decency laws, as mandated by the Congress and affirmed by the Supreme Court."
Despite Winters' unmistakable fervency, it's not clear if implied nudity violates broadcast decency laws, and there is evidence to suggest that the courts have become more lenient in doling out fines to broadcasters. In June, the Supreme Court ruled against the FCC's policy on fleeting expletives over public airwaves, stating that it did not fully articulate its rules until 2004. That case, Fox v. FCC, involved hefty fines against the Fox network -- after Cher and Nicole Richie uttered a few dirty words -- as well as a 2003 episode of the ABC drama "NYPD Blue," which featured the buttocks of actress Charlotte Ross and did not involve pixilation.
Admittedly, though, that case left more questions than answers, as the court declined to address the larger issue of whether the government still has the authority to regulate decency over the airwaves. Broadcasters argue that such regulations are obsolete in the age of cable TV and the Internet, and the court's refusal to weigh in left many in the entertainment industry frustrated with what they see as judicial foot-dragging. "Creative media artists now likely face many more years of uncertainty as to what precisely is or is not indecent," wrote Jonathan Rintels, executive director of the Center for Creative Voices in Media, in a statement.
The Parents Television Council dubs itself as a "nonpartisan educational organization advocating responsible entertainment." Read the full results of its nudity study here.
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