Can networks show the sale of illegal substances?

I’ve been watching Dead Like Me on DVD, and it seems that they’re unwilling to show an unambiguous sale of illegal substances. In a number of episodes the characters will offer to sell drugs, and consume drugs, but the sale never occurs onscreen. There are a number of occasions in the show when it’s reasonable to infer that such a transaction just happened, but seemingly always with a plausible alternative suggested by one of the characters: he just bought chinese food.

Is this forbidden for some reason? Why would they show any number of instances of people consuming drugs, and have solicitations for the sale of drugs, but never any sale on-screen?

Since dead like was me on showtime it can be inferred you’re not just referring to the big 4, yes over drug sales can be shown, as seen on HBO’s The Wire. I can’t seem to recall a show I’ve seen in recent memory with more pervasive narcotics trade.

I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that Dead Like Me aired on Showtime. Thanks for the clarification, IAmNotSpartacus. I had assumed that it was one one of the major broadcast networks. So then I’ll generalize the question a bit… Aside from frontal nudity, what subjects cannot be depicted on broadcast television (fox, cbs, abc, nbc)? I’m interested more in pictures that cannot be shown, rather than in restricted words that the FCC talks about so frequently.

There are no rules governing what can be shown on network TV, aside from obscenity. All of the networks create their own standards. They are in the business of selling commercial time to advertisers, so their main concern is to not offend “the general public”. They traditionally play pretty safe, although they are willing to show nudity (Roots) or other deviant behavior if the benefit outweighs the outcry…

Frontal nudity can and has been shown on national broadcast networks. The FCC is not in the business of setting standards for content (that’s between the networks’ standard and practices department and their advertisers.) The FCC will investigate in response to complaints about obscenity. The standards for determining obscenity are restrictive, but ultimately subjective.