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November 18, 2001 04:25pm
FCC looks into ABC's 'Secret'
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
by: Brooks Boliek

(WASHINGTON DC) -- ABC's airing of "The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show" is likely to cause the network more than a little discomfort as the federal government has received dozens of complaints that the G-string-laced show and its related promotions violate broadcast indecency rules.

FCC commissioner Michael Copps told reporters Friday that he has received 50 e-mails from different parts of the country complaining about the racy show and its promotions. One of the complaints was of a more personal nature -- Copps' 27-year-old daughter had a complaint about the show.

"She saw it and was upset," Copps said. "She's a new mother, and when her child gets (to a) TV age, he should see wholesome programming."

He said he was forwarding the complaints to the FCC's Enforcement Bureau and asking it to investigate whether it violated indecency regulations.

While Copps had received complaints about the show, he said many of the e-mails involved the promotions.

"A lot of the stuff that has come in early addressed the promos," he said. "Sometimes the promotions are more provocative than the shows."

The FCC is examining whether commercials should respond to the V-chip program blocking device or if commercials should air only on shows that are rated the same as the commercial.

Copps has been the FCC's most outspoken advocate for enforcing the commission's indecency rules. He has pushed broadcasters to voluntarily keep tapes of their programming so that the panel can review them if a complaint comes in. Under commission rules, indecency complaints must be accompanied by a tape or transcript of the show.

While indecent speech is constitutionally protected, the government can limit it to protect children. The FCC rules limit indecent speech to the hours from 10 p.m.-6 a.m. As defined by the FCC, material is indecent if it "in context, depicts or describes sexual or excretory activities or organs in a patently offensive manner as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium."

The fashion show aired Thursday at 9 p.m. EST and was rated TV-14, meaning that it was inappropriate for children younger than 14. Parents with V-chip-equipped sets could have programmed their televisions so the chip could block out that category.

Aides to the other three commissioners also said they had received numerous e-mails concerning the show. Commissioners Kathleen Abernathy and Kevin Martin and chairman Michael Powell had all received complaints, according to aides or the commissioners.

"I know that I have gotten some," Powell said after a talk he gave at the Media Institute's conference on free speech. "I don't know how many. I get a lot of things of that nature. Every night, someone's objecting to something they saw on television."

Powell has been less concerned about content issues than Copps. During his talk at the think tank's conference, he said content regulation was a problematic area because you end up with " 'Alice in Wonderland' definitions" about what is objectionable content.

In a statement, ABC said the program complied with its standards and carried the proper rating to inform viewers of its nature so they could tune it in or turn it off.

"This special was approved by our Broadcast Standards and Practices department and aired with a TV-14 parental label," the network said. "As with any other program, viewers have a choice to tune in, or not."

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