WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. communications regulators on Friday imposed indecency fines on a scaled-down list of Fox television stations for airing episodes of a reality TV show in 2003.
The Federal Communications Commission said it had voted to issue $7,000 fines to each of 13 Fox stations to penalize them for broadcasting an April 7, 2003 episode of “Married By America” that featured “persistent sexual activities” from Las Vegas bachelor and bachelorette parties.
However, the FCC sharply reduced the number of TV stations subject to the fines. In penalties that it originally proposed in 2004, the agency had sought fines totaling nearly $1.2 million against 169 stations in News Corp’s Fox television network, which aired the show.
Fox issued a statement on Friday saying it “strongly disagrees with the commission’s conclusions in the notice and we will be actively considering our options.”
FCC rules prohibit TV and radio stations from broadcasting material that is sexually explicit or otherwise indecent, except late at night when children are not likely to be watching.
The “Married By America” program included scenes like a topless woman straddling a man, whipped cream being licked off one woman’s bare chest and an underwear-clad man being spanked by two female strippers.
In its order, the agency said it had rejected arguments by Fox that scenes in the program were “not patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium.”
“By any reasonable definition, many of the activities depicted and described (in the program) constitute sexual activities,” the FCC said.
But the FCC reduced the list of stations to be penalized, saying the fines would only apply in those localities where the agency received complaints.
The FCC, under the administration of President George W. Bush, embarked on a crackdown on indecent content on broadcast TV and radio after pop star Janet Jackson briefly exposed her bare breast during the 2004 broadcast of the Super Bowl halftime show.
Reporting by Peter Kaplan; Editing by Gary Hill