The FCC was confused about time zones, and initially fined eight CBS TV stations that it shouldn't have, with each station liable for a $32,500 fine. This was for airing a teenage orgy scene during "Without a Trace."
It turns out those eight stations--bordering close to the Central time zone--were actually in the Eastern time zone. Therefore, "Trace" aired at 10 p.m., not 9 p.m. FCC rules say no show with what it deems indecent scenes will run from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Truthfully, a lot of industry types speak in the shorthand of the day--the "8 p.m. to 9 p.m. sitcom hour" or the "10 p.m. drama hour." We take it for granted here on the coasts that prime time runs 8 to 11 p.m., when of course, we all know somewhere in the Midwest, there's a 7 to 10 p.m. prime-time programming block.
But the FCC should know better, and should do a little fact checking--of the phone book, perhaps. Somehow it can immediately tell that two teenage women kissing at a bar is indecent (see WB's "The Bedford Diaries") but it can't tell you the hour a show aired in Tennessee in cities such as Knoxville, Johnson City, Chattanooga, or in Indiana in markets Fort Wayne, South Bend, Indianapolis, Lafayette, or Terre Haute.
Yes, we know it's confusing. But this is what they get paid to do. What's needed is some focus of eyes on a proper time zone map and away from the TV screen that is gawking at the lesbian relationship of some college girls.
Keeping time should be the first FCC rule.