Fox Hit With $1.2 Million Indecency Fine

FCC Finds Topless Dancer Episode 'Patently Offensive'

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WASHINGTON ( -- The Federal Communications Commission yesterday levied its highest fine yet -- $1,183,000 -- for a single incident of indecency against the Fox Broadcasting Co. for airing an episode of Married by America that featured topless dancers.

169 local Fox stations were fined by the FCC for airing a 'patently offensive' episode of 'Married By America.'

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The FCC levied the fine against 169 Fox stations that aired the episode, which first aired last spring. Each station was fined $7,000. The FCC in a statement said the episode aired prior to 10 p.m., "a time when children were likely to be in the audience, involved depictions of sexual activity and was patently offensive."

April 2003 complaint
The charge against Fox arose after the Parents Television Council petitioned the FCC to act on the episode of Married by America.

A spokeswoman for the group last night praised the decision. "It's a great first step," she said. "The commission has finally gone beyond [looking at swear] words and found something visual indecent." She said the group hopes it will make broadcasters "more cautious" in the programming they air.

Mating reality show
Married by America is a reality series in which single men and women have potential mates selected for them by "relationship experts" and viewers vote on the best match.

Fox disputed the FCC's characterization, but made no immediate indication of whether the fine would be appealed. "We disagree with the FCC's decision and believe the content was not indecent," the company said in a statement.

Fox has a total of 182 stations, but not all stations chose to air that episode and escaped the FCC fines.

Congressional pressure
The FCC has been under congressional pressure to toughen enforcement of indecency regulations following the Janet Jackson breast-baring incident during this year's CBS's telecast of the Super Bowl halftime show.

CBS faces a fine of $550,000 stemming from the Feb. 1 event. The FCC announced it plans last month to fine the Viacom network and its stations the maximum fine for violating broadcast indecency standards by airing Ms. Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" during the show. The FCC also fined radio giant Clear Channel Communications over incidents involving shock-jock Howard Stern and the show "Bubba the Love Sponge."

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