LOS ANGELES – Miley Cyrus’s sexualized grinding against a costumed Abe Lincoln could cost NBC.
The Federal Communications (FCC) is investigating the network for a violation of its “sexual or excretory activity” standards, after viewers complained about the racy content in its primetime special, “Miley Cyrus: Bangerz Tour.” But according to industry experts, NBC was likely well aware of any potential infractions when it chose to air the notoriously controversial entertainer.
“NBC and Miley are pursuing ratings. It is fairly obvious that executives knew what would happen when they decided to televise this special,” Gene Grabowski, executive vice president for Levick Strategic Communications, told FOX411. “They knew the programming would be risqué and in questionable taste.”
The show, which aired July , not only featured the pop princess thrusting up against a Lincoln-like figure, but also had her romping around in a bed with half-naked men and women, donning a skin-tight unitard and dressing up a backup dancer like a marijuana joint.
One complaint deemed the program “borderline pornographic” and “very graphic and disturbing,” while another condemned the decision to broadcast a singer that “freely advertises that her songs are all about sex” during “summer evenings when the kids get to stay up late.”
The FCC defines broadcast indecency as material that is “patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards.” The courts have held that indecent material is protected by the First Amendment and cannot be “banned entirely,” but it may be restricted to avoid times when “there is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience” which is considered to be between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. The Cyrus special, however, aired at 9 p.m.
“NBC put Miley on knowing full well it would generate controversy,” said Dan Gainor, vice president of business & culture at the Media Research Center. “Unless the fine is several million dollars, they will view it as a cost of doing business as a ‘hip’ network.”
The worst case scenario would be that NBC is slapped with a condemnation letter and/or a six-figure fine. Yet many legal analysts don’t anticipate that the FCC will reprimand the network at all.
“It is offensive, but indecent? Doesn’t seem to be indecent,” argued Michael Overing, a censorship and legal communications professor at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. “Offensive conduct alone isn’t outside the First Amendment.”
NBC and the FCC did not respond to FOX411’s requests for comment.
This isn’t the first time the FCC has received multiple complaints regarding the former “Hannah Montana” star. Last year, it was flooded with more than 150 filings over her raunchy MTV Video Music Awards performance with Robin Thicke, in which she twerked around making suggestive gestures with a foam finger.
As the cable and internet streaming industry continues to grow, networks overall are said to be now openly risking FCC sanctions with edgy, sexually-charged programming as they compete with the likes of HBO and Netflix.
However, others maintain that the best way to avoid being offended is simply to change the channel.
“In the ‘70s, everybody was very aware of the antics of Alice Cooper on stage with the guillotine and blood and theatrics. If you feel it’s inappropriate, don’t go,” added Rolling Stone journalist, Steve Baltin. “Likewise, you know Miley’s show today. If you are worried about it, don’t watch.”
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Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay