FCC Fines Fox Stations For 'Indecent' Broadcast

LOS ANGELES – On Friday, the FCC fined 13 Fox TV stations $7,000 each for the 2003 broadcast of an episode of "Married by America," that included pixilated scenes from bachelor and bachelorette parties.

FCC had initially proposed levying a $1.2 million fine against 169 Fox affiliates that aired the long-canceled reality show. But, under a new policy, the agency said it would only fine stations in markets where viewers actually complained about the content of the show.

"Fox strongly disagrees with the commission's conclusions in the notice and we will be actively considering our options," said Scott Grogin, Fox's senior vice president of corporate communications in a statement to the press. He declined further comment.

Fox and its affiliates had argued that that no fine was warranted since the FCC's indecency standard is unconstitutional and that the episode in question did not meet the indecency test.

The offending images of nude breasts and buttocks were pixilated by Fox during the broadcast of the show, but the FCC deemed that irrelevant. The order noted that "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."

The commission's action against the Fox stations follows in the wake of FCC fines against over 40 ABC television affiliates that aired an "indecent" episode of 'NYPD Blue' in 2003. The five-year statute of limitations in both cases was about to expire.

ABC paid the $1.24 million in fines on Feb. 21 in order to remain eligible for a federal appeal, which the network filed the same day in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Encouraged by the FCC actions, the Parents Television Council has now filed an indecency complaint against NBC over an episode of its series 'Las Vegas.'

The council's complaint is that a scene on the show featured naked women with "their buttocks … visible, and only shadows obscure their breasts and groins." While 'Las Vegas' is a 10 p.m. show, it runs at 9 p.m. in the Central and Mountain Time zones.

PTC president Tim Winter, a former NBC executive, cited the 'NYPD Blue' fines in an official statement about the 'Las Vegas' complaint.

"Only less than one month ago, the FCC handed down $1.4 million in fines against 52 ABC affiliates for a 2003 episode of NYPD Blue that focused extensively on an actress’ naked buttocks…but that didn’t deter NBC from airing barely obscured female nudity during a primetime airing of Las Vegas," said Winter.