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FCC proposes record fine against Fox for indecency

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The Federal Communications Commission has proposed a record total of $1.2 million in fines against 169 Fox Television Network affiliates for airing indecent material during an episode of the reality program “Married by America.”

The FCC announced Oct. 12 that it would fine each affiliate $7,000 and it made a distinction between the taped episode of Married by America, which could have been preempted, and the live Janet Jackson incident at the Super Bowl in February. The Fox affiliates that chose not to air the reality program were not fined.

In September, Viacom and its CBS stations were fined $550,000 for the controversial Super Bowl halftime show. That amount had been the largest fine for indecency in television history until the Fox ruling.

Married by America is a reality-based television program in which several single adults agreed to be engaged to and potentially marry each other, even though they had not previously met. The episode in question, which aired April 7, 2003, focused on the Las Vegas bachelor and bachelorette parties for the remaining two couples, according to the FCC report.

During the six-minute segment, various sexual acts involving strippers were depicted. Fox defended the segment by saying all nudity was pixilated, but the FCC said “even a child would have known that the strippers were topless and that sexual activity was being shown.”

The FCC received 159 complaints in response to the show, and the government agency voted 5-0 in favor of fining the stations. The report called the material “gratuitous, vulgar, and clearly intended to pander to and titillate.”

“The FCC is finally starting to listen to an outraged public,” Brent Bozell, president of the Parents Television Council, said in a statement. PTC filed a complaint about the show.

“We applaud the FCC for holding all Fox affiliates responsible for airing the filthy and indecent broadcast. We’ve been demanding this for years and it’s high time that every licensee is held accountable for their actions.”

Federal regulations are intended to prevent television and radio stations from airing indecent material, which is usually sexual in nature, except during late-night hours when children are less likely to be watching or listening. The FCC noted that “Married by America” aired prior to 10 p.m. ET.
The FCC’s full report is available online at www.fcc.gov.

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