Fox Television is standing firm (sorry) in the face of a $91,000 fine thrust (yep!) upon it by the Federal Communications Commission for a single episode of its reality series, Married by America.
Despite Fox’s argument that the material in question was not statutorily indecent, an FCC analyst maintained:
Even with Fox’s editing, the episode includes scenes in which partygoers lick whipped cream from strippers’ bodies in a sexually suggestive manner. Another scene features a man on all fours in his underwear as two female strippers playfully spank him. Although the episode electronically obscures any nudity, the sexual nature of the scenes is inescapable, as the strippers attempt to lure partygoers into sexually compromising situations.
(taken from Variety via Defamer)
While that might sound like the plot-line of your typical mid-season replacement sitcom – “the guys run amuck!” – the amount of the fine was originally $1.2 million, levied to include all 169 stations, at $7,000 each, airing the 2003 episode. That amount has since been reduced by the FCC so that only the 13 stations that ostensibly received complaints would be fined, but even that degree of outcry is suspect. Through just a bit of sleuthing, journalist Jeff Jarvis uncovered that the number of complaints was not 159, but merely 23. And of those, all but two were identical form letters, boiling down to three original complaints out of millions viewing.
Instead of paying the reduced amount, Fox will file a request that the FCC completely reconsider the fine. In another case currently pending Supreme Court review, Fox also successfully sued the agency over a new restriction on “fleeting” expletives.
The world watches. (Or pretends otherwise, but secretly Tivos.)