WASHINGTON Regulators on Friday fined 13 Fox TV stations $7,000 each for a 2003 episode of Married By America that included graphic scenes from bachelor and bachelorette parties.
The Federal Communications Commission had initially proposed a $1.2 million fine against 169 affiliates of Fox Broadcasting Co., a division of News Corp., that aired the since-canceled reality show. But, under a new policy, the agency said it would only fine stations in markets where viewers complained.
Last week, the FCC fined 44 ABC Television Network stations a total of $1.2 million over a 2003 broadcast of NYPD Blue. The agency focused on a scene in which a boy surprises a nude woman as she prepares to shower. ABC is owned by Walt Disney Co.
In the Married by America ruling, TV stations in Las Vegas; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Tupelo, Miss.; Des Moines; and, Okemos, Mich., face fines totaling $91,000.
Fox strongly disagrees with the commission s conclusions in the notice and we will be actively considering our options, Scott Grogin, the company s senior vice president of corporate communications said in a statement. He declined to comment further.
In issuing its order, the FCC rejected arguments from Fox and its affiliates that no fine was warranted since the agency s indecency standard is unconstitutional and the episode in question didn t even meet the indecency test.
The six-episode Married by America introduced a cast of single men and women and allowed viewers to match them up by popular vote. Five matched couples then went through some rituals of dating, but none actually married.
Fox also said some images that were found to be offensive appeared on-screen for 10.5 seconds.
The episode in question featured explicitly sexual scenes from bachelor and bachelorette parties.
In its order released Friday, the agency said by any reasonable definition many of the activities at the parties constitute sexual activities and the scenes also depict sexual organs.
While it is true that the nude female breasts and buttocks shown were pixilated, the commission has never held that the full exposure of sexual or excretory organs is required to satisfy the first prong of the broadcast indecency standard, according to the FCC order.
It s the second time in a month the FCC fined a TV network for airing past episodes of canceled series. The FCC has a five-year statute of limitations for pursuing such actions.
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