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FCC proposes $1.2 million indecency fine against Fox stations

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    News Media Update         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Broadcasting    

FCC proposes $1.2 million indecency fine against Fox stations

  • An April 2003 episode of Fox Broadcasting Co.’s “Married By America” landed a proposed $1.2 million fine — a record for television indecency — from the Federal Communications Commission for showing whipped-cream-clad strippers and nudity

Oct. 13, 2004 — The Federal Communications Commission proposed a $1.2 million fine against 169 Fox television stations Tuesday, 18 months after strippers covered in whipped cream and digitally obscured nudity were shown on an episode of “Married by America.”

The five FCC commissioners voted unanimously to fine each of the stations that aired the episode $7,000 — the standard fine for a single indecency incident — for a total of $1.2 million, the largest FCC indecency fine ever proposed against a television program. Fox, which says it disagrees with the proposed fine, has until Nov. 11 to appeal.

The fine stems from an April 7, 2003, episode depicting a bachelor party that included strippers covered in whipped cream and topless women, according to the Parents Television Council, a media watchdog group that filed a complaint with the FCC. Scenes included party-goers licking whipped cream from strippers’ bodies and a man on all fours in his underwear getting spanked by two women whose nudity was digitally obscured.

The FCC said it “found that the episode, which aired from 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., depending on the city, a time when children were likely to be in the audience, involved depictions of sexual activity and was patently offensive,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

“Although the nudity was pixilated, even a child would have known that the strippers were topless and that sexual activity was being shown,” the FCC wrote in its ruling, the Associated Press reported.

Federal law prohibits depiction of sexual or excretory functions on radio or television broadcast stations between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., when children are most likely in the audience.

The commission received 159 complaints about the episode.

The fine is more than double the $500,000 fine FCC slapped on CBS last month for Janet Jackson’s breast-baring incident on the Super Bowl half-time show.

CBS affiliates could not have anticipated the Super Bowl incident, which occurred on live television, the FCC reasoned, but affiliates of Fox could have refused to air the “Married by America” episode after previewing the taped episode. At least one station did refuse to air the episode, according to Broadcasting & Cable magazine.

“We disagree with the FCC’s decision and believe the content was not indecent,” said Scott Grogin, a spokesman for Fox Broadcasting told The Wall Street Journal .


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