- The Washington Times - Friday, November 22, 2002

From combined dispatches
A Federal Communications Commission official yesterday called for an overhaul of the government's broadcast indecency standards as hundreds of complaints flooded his office about the Victoria's Secret lingerie fashion show that aired on prime time national television Wednesday night.
Michael Copps, one of five commissioners at the FCC, urged the agency to revise the definition of indecency and look into whether it should be expanded to include obscene, violent and profane programming.
"The current definition of indecency to me should be capturing for enforcement purposes some of these programs and it is not," Mr. Copps told reporters during a briefing in his office. "We are only having a paucity of enforcement actions against programming that is palpably and demonstrably indecent."
Mr. Copps, the lone Democrat on the commission, said he did not watch the fashion show that was broadcast at 9 p.m. on Viacom Inc.'s CBS television network.
The second annual "Victoria's Secret Fashion Show" featured barely dressed models, including Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks and Gisele Bundchen showing off the lingerie chain's wares.
The women wore bras, panties, garter skirts, thigh-highs and something called "a balconette bra with stretch lace that bares as it lifts," said the company's Web site. Several models including Miss Klum, Karolina Kurkova and Adriana Lima strutted onto the runway with giant wings affixed to the backs of their bras.
The special also boasted pop singers (including Phil Collins and Marc Anthony), consumer tips (when shopping for lingerie, consider speed of access), and 34 racks of bras and panties waiting for the runway.
Federal indecency rules bar the broadcast of obscene material and limit the airing of indecent material that contains sexual or excretory references in a patently offensive manner.
"I am strongly of the opinion we ought to be considering excessive violence as part of that definition," Mr. Copps said. A revision is "sensitive, it's delicate, it's difficult to do that, but I think we need to do that."
Behind him during the briefing was a computer containing more than 300 e-mail messages from the public with complaints about the show. Some of the e-mails had subject lines that said: "When will this trash stop?" and "Victoria's Secret smut show."
"I would characterize it as a high-tech striptease. I think CBS acted shamefully and certainly not in the public interest, as broadcasters are supposed to do. They weren't selling clothes last night, they were selling women. You had near-naked women going down the runway, and young girls see this and think this is how beautiful women are supposed to act," said Jan LaRue, chief counsel of Concerned Women for America.
Victoria's Secret, a unit of Limited Brands Inc., spent $7 million to produce the show to kick off the holiday shopping season.
Last year, Walt Disney Co.'s ABC television network aired the fashion show and had about 12.4 million viewers. The FCC said the scores of complaints it received after the show did not demonstrate that the sexual aspects of the material were "so graphic or explicit as to be patently offensive."
A spokeswoman for CBS was not immediately available for comment yesterday.
Concerned Women for America, the National Organization for Women and the Parents Television Council asked CBS not to air the show, calling it a "soft-core porn infomercial" that degraded women.
"What purpose does the special serve except to overly sexualize women and use this to bolster the networks' demographics for young men?" they asked in a letter to CBS President Leslie Moonves.
Melissa Cardwell, research director for the Parents Television Council, said she had hoped that the hundreds of protests about last year's special would have dissuaded broadcasters from showing it again.
"Despite what the PTC says, this is not pornography," CBS spokesman Chris Ender said before the show aired. "It's a one-hour fashion show mixed with musical performances and comedy segments.
"Does it push the envelope? Sure. But everyone knows what the Victoria's Secret fashion show is," he said. "With the advance publicity and the content advisory, every viewer will be armed with information to make their own choice."
The Parents Television Council, angered by the FCC's ruling on last year's show, had said it would step up pressure on federal regulators if this year's edition was similar. The council put a page on its Web site where viewers could file complaints with the FCC about this year's show.
CBS gave the show a TV-14 rating, an indication that the material might be unsuitable for children age 14 and younger.
The show moved around the CBS schedule. It was scheduled to air at 10 p.m. but, worried about competing against ABC's two-hour finale of "The Bachelor," CBS moved it to 8 p.m.
CBS then moved the show to 9 p.m. Mr. Ender said that upon reflection, CBS decided it wasn't wise to air it at 8 p.m.
The special drew an audience of 10.5 million, according to preliminary figures from Nielsen Media Research, compared with 24 million for the first hour of "The Bachelor."
A "small number" of CBS affiliates did not air the show in prime time, but Mr. Ender wouldn't name them. Two are in Idaho: KBCI-TV of Boise and KIDK-TV of Idaho Falls, both owned by Fisher Broadcasting Inc.
"I don't believe it meets the standards of our communities in the time period offered," said Jeffrey Anderson, Fisher's general manager. "It's a family viewing hour."
The stations plan to air the show after midnight on the weekend.
Chris Baker contributed to this report.


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