The Federal Communications Commission Tuesday sought to fine 169 Fox television stations a total of $1.18 million for violating decency standards when they aired an episode of “Married by America.”
The FCC said it proposed fining the stations $7,000 each for airing in April 2003 an episode of the matchmaking reality program that showed sexually explicit and graphic scenes at a time when children were likely to be watching.
The agency voted 5-0 in favor of fining the stations after receiving 159 complaints. Not all Fox affiliates aired the episode.
The FCC has been cracking down on television and radio stations for decency violations after singer Janet Jackson bared her bejeweled breast during the televised Super Bowl game halftime show earlier this year.
The FCC said scenes in the “Married by America” show --like a topless woman straddling a man, whipped cream being licked off one woman’s bare chest and a underwear-clad man being spanked by two topless female strippers -- were sufficiently graphic and explicit to be deemed indecent.
The nudity was obscured by blurring known as pixilation, but “even a child would have known that the strippers were topless and that sexual activity was being shown,” the FCC said in its order.
“The material is gratuitous, vulgar, and clearly intended to pander to and titillate,” the agency said.
Fox says scenes weren't indecentFederal rules bar television and radio stations from airing indecent material, typically sexually explicit in nature, except during late night hours when children are less likely to be listening or watching.
Fox denied the show violated the rules.
“We disagree with the FCC’s decision and believe the content was not indecent,” said Scott Grogin, spokesman for Fox Broadcasting Co. which owns 25 of the stations facing fines and is a unit of News Corp.
The stations will have 30 days to contest the fine or pay it. They could have faced penalties as high as $27,500 each.
In the wake of the Jackson incident, which prompted the FCC to propose a $550,000 fine against 20 CBS stations owned by Viacom Inc., Congress has been considering measures that would hike the maximum fine to as much as $500,000.
Lawmakers failed to reach a compromise before taking a break ahead of the fall general election but they are expected to take it up when they return in mid-November.