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FCC Rejects Fox Fine Appeal on Procedural Basis

Apr 4, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The Federal Communications Commission is rejecting Fox’s challenge of a $91,000 indecency fine against 13 of its stations for airing “Married by America” episode, saying Fox stations used too many pages in filing their petition.
The FCC flatly rejected the petition filed by Fox and two other companies without consideration, arguing they failed to follow long-standing procedures to allow a longer petition to be filed.
The FCC fined Fox in February. The show originally aired April 7, 2003, and the statute of limitations for the agency to act was nearing.
“Married by America” was a weekly hourlong series featuring several single people who agreed to become engaged and potentially to marry. The April 7 episode focused on bachelor and bachelorette parties for two women contestants and two male contestants with adult entertainment; it cut back and forth between scenes of the two parties involving strippers.
The FCC had originally proposed fining 169 Fox stations several years ago, but the February fine was directed at just the 13 that had received complaints about the show.
Still, Fox rejected the fine, saying on March 23 that neither it nor Sinclair Broadcast Group nor Mountain Licenses would pay. Normally broadcasters pay FCC fines and then challenge them in court.
Despite Fox’s rejection, four Fox stations have paid the fine. The FCC dropped another station’s fine after it turned out no viewer had complained in that station’s viewing area.
In a statement today, a Fox spokesman said, “Given that the petition was filed on behalf of seven companies—each of whom had the right to file 25 pages—we fail to see how filing 39 pages instead of the 175 allowable pages was grounds for dismissal. It is particularly offensive for the commission to have used such specious grounds to dismiss a petition that raises such important constitutional issues.”
Late Friday, the Justice Department filed suit against Fox and the eight stations that did not pay, seeking payment of the fines.
“We have an obligation to protect our children by enforcing laws restricting indecent content on television and radio,” said an FCC spokeswoman. “For four years, News Corp. has failed to take responsibility for airing indecent programming during ‘Married by America.’ It is long past time for the company to accept responsibility and pay its fines.”
A Fox spokesman said, “We look forward to the opportunity to present the full factual and legal arguments in the ‘Married by America’ case to an impartial and open court of law.”
3 p.m.: Updated throughout

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