Bird flipped on the Peacock, complaints ensue

When is a finger just a finger, and when is it a potentially multi-million dollar fine? NBC may well find out soon enough.  At least 18 complaints have reportedly been lodged with the FCC for the Peacock Net’s live broadcast of the Golden Globe Awards on January 11. The gripes involve actor Mickey Rourke’s acceptance speech and, more specifically, producer Darren Aronofsky’s pantomimed response during that speech, a response which NBC dutifully broadcast (for those of you on the West Coast who got a two-second black screen, YouTube is your friend – for research only, of course).

We can’t recall a single instance in the indecency era in which a televised image of a middle finger provoked an enforcement response from the Commission. While we highly doubt that the airwaves have been completely void of such gestures over the last 30 years, the lack of any cases involving such a gesture shouldn’t be surprising: after all, the FCC’s rules define broadcast indecency as “language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities.” Does flipping the bird really fit in there? We would think not, but then again, we thought that a millisecond flash of nipple was OK and a fleeting view of an attractive woman’s buttocks might be, too . . . and the FCC disagreed. So who knows?

There’s no word yet whether the FCC will take any action at all here, but the stage has been set. Just how far will the Commission be inclined to stretch the long arm (or finger) of the law?