The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) levied its heaviest fine ever against a television broadcaster as it announced earlier this week that it would fine the Fox Broadcasting Company close to $1.2 million. The program that the FCC took exception to was the very short-lived “Married by America” episode that appeared on April, 7, 2003. In this particular episode of the poorly received “reality television” show, there were a number of male and female Las Vegas strippers featured in a variety of sexual situations. In their official statement, the FCC noted that these types of situations were designed to “pander to and titillate the audience.” The FCC commissioners unanimously decided to fine each of the 169 Fox television affiliates that aired the program $7,000, with the notable exception of one affiliate that decided not to air the program. Some commentators have suggested that the FCC has substantially stepped up its enforcement of the various federal broadcasting decency laws over the past year, especially after the now infamous incident during the Super Bowl halftime show in January where Janet Jackson’s breast was exposed.
The first link will take visitors to a news article from Wednesday’s New York Times which discusses the decision of the FCC to levy a fine against the Fox Broadcasting Company. The second link leads to a news story from the Detroit Free Press in which Fox disputes the FCC finding that the program in question violated indecency standards. The third link leads to official documents issued by the FCC about the nature of the recent transgressions, provided by those inquisitive people at The Smoking Gun. The fourth link leads to an impassioned editorial from the Philadelphia Daily News which takes the FCC to task for its seemingly selective enforcement of these various regulations and laws. The fifth link leads to a consumer factsheet provided by the FCC which outlines what qualifies as “obscene, profane & indecent broadcasts”. The final link is a bit of a flashback, as it features Nina Totenberg (of National Public Radio) talking about the Supreme Court’s discussions of federal funding for the arts and public accepted standards of decency from March 1998.
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