The complaints to the Federal Communications Commission (search) were all filed by the Parents Television Council, a conservative watchdog group which frequently complains about sex and violence on television.
"None of the segments were patently offensive under contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, and thus not indecent," the agency said in a statement.
Three members of the five-member FCC approved the entire order: Chairman Michael Powell (search) and Kathleen Abernathy, both Republicans; and Democrat Jonathan Adelstein. The two other commissioners, Democrat Michael Copps and Republican Kevin Martin, dissented on parts of the order.
The Parents Television Council (search) alleged that the programs, which aired between Oct. 29, 2001, and Feb. 11, 2004, contained sexually explicit segments or used indecent or profane language that violated indecency standards.
One complaint involved an episode of "Friends" that aired in May 2003. In it, a female character, her husband and the husband's ex-girlfriend talk about fertility treatment at a medical office.
There were multiple complaints about a November 2003 episode of "Gilmore Girls." In one scene, a character's grandfather reminisces about college pranks involving nudity. In another, two college students discuss an incident in which a male student who was nude spent the night in a dorm hallway.
A complaint over "The Simpsons" included a scene in which students carried picket signs with the phrases "What would Jesus glue?" and "Don't cut off my pianissimo."
Federal law bars non-satellite radio and non-cable television stations from airing references to sexual and excretory functions between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., when children are more likely to be listening and watching.
The FCC said the segments in question "were not patently offensive" within the context of the shows.