WASHINGTON Fox Broadcasting Co. yesterday said it would not pay fines totaling $91,000 for airing a reality show episode that included graphic sexual scenes at a bachelor party.
Fox is also asking the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider the fines on the 13-owned and affiliated stations that aired the “Married by America” episode.
Sinclair Broadcast Group and Mountain Licenses LP also will not pay fines for its stations.
“Fox believes that the FCC’s decision in this case was arbitrary and capricious, inconsistent with precedent and patently unconstitutional,” said Scott Grogin, the company’s senior vice president of corporate communications, in a statement.
The FCC fined the Fox stations $7,000 each for the hour-long episode of “Married by America” that included strippers and other scenes from bachelor and bachelorette parties. The agency had initially proposed a $1.2 million fine against 169 affiliates of Fox, a division of News Corp., that aired the since-canceled reality show. But, under a relatively recent policy, the agency said it would only fine stations in markets where viewers complained.
In its ruling, released Feb. 22, the FCC wrote that “by any reasonable definition” many of the activities at the parties constituted sexual activities.
Grogin would not comment on whether Fox would take the FCC to court if the companies lost the appeal.
ABC did just that, after filing an appeal of the FCC’s ruling involving an episode of “NYPD Blue” in which a woman’s bare buttocks were shown.
On Feb. 12, the FCC fined 44 ABC Television Network stations a total of $1.2 million over the 2003 broadcast. ABC, which is owned by Walt Disney Co., paid the fine, but is challenging the agency’s ruling in court.
In response to Fox’s refusal to pay, FCC spokeswoman Mary Diamond said, “We believe in enforcing indecency standards especially when children are watching.”
In the FCC ruling, TV stations in Des Moines, Iowa; Nashville; Detroit; Washington; Minneapolis; West Point, Miss.; Greenville, S.C.; Yakima, Wash.; Charleston W.Va.; Lansing, Mich.; Roanoke, Va.; Kansas City, Mo.; and Tampa, Fla. face fines.
The six-episode “Married by America” introduced a cast of single men and women and allowed viewers to match them up by popular vote. Five matched couples then went through some rituals of dating, debauchery, and some whipped cream, but none married.