Business: Showing It Like It Isn't

No matter that TV serials portray alcoholism and homosexuality or that bikini-clad models frolic in commercials for Caribbean resorts. By fiat of the Television Code Authority of the National Association of Broadcasters, TV commercials have long been forbidden to show beer and wine actually being consumed or undergarments stretched over living, quivering flesh. If viewers who did not want to watch earthy programs were assaulted by racy commercials, the broadcasters feared, the industry would face charges of offending community standards of good taste.

Says Stockton Helfrich, director of the code authority's staff: "Reaching some common denominator on advertising that is acceptable...