Call it full moon rising -- soon, there could be bare butts all over the boob tube.
The US Second Circuit Court of Appeals has vacated the $1.21 million worth of fines that the FCC levied against ABC after alleging that the network violated broadcast indecency standards for daring to show actress Charlotte Ross' naked behind during a 2003 episode of "NYPD Blue."
When overthrowing the fine, the court cited the FCC's own declaration that "nudity itself is not per se indecent." It also reiterated that the FCC's context-based indecency test is "unconstitutionally vague," as previously determined by the court when the FCC demanded fines from Fox when profanities were aired during the 2006 Billboard Music Awards.
The result of the latest ruling is that "because networks know that they won't be fined for [showing bare buns on screen], they know that it is another tool in the arsenal to engage viewers," says Lawrence Meyers, editor of "Inside the TV Writer's Room" and "Picket Fences" story editor.
In essence, the ruling "gives television producers and networks more freedom to do it if they wish," he says, noting that "because network ratings are in severe decline and have been for a number of years, they may try to pull out all the stops and say, 'Let's throw in as much nudity and swear words as we can out there,' instead of focusing on playing great content, which they have not been doing."
Still, neither Meyers nor "NYPD Blue" co-creator Steven Bochco expects that bare buns will be de rigueur on broadcast TV.
"It's not just a question of, 'Oh, maybe they'll program where you're going to see a little t- - - and
a- - ,' Bochco says. "That's not the issue. The issue is, generally speaking, having a broader palette to tell your stories.