Due to a technicality, the FCC is rejecting Fox’s appeal of a $91,000 indecency fine slapped against 13 of its stations that aired a 2003 episode of Married by America. The FCC said that Fox stations failed to follow long-standing procedures by using too many pages in filing their petition for an appeal. Apparently, Fox did not file a request to exceed the page limit of the petition at least 10 days in advance.
"The commission dismissed the petition for reconsideration submitted by Fox and its affiliates in the Married By America case for failing to ask for permission in advance of filing to exceed the page limit for such petitions," Fox spokesman Scott Grogin said in a statement. "Given that the petition was filed on behalf of seven companies -- each of which 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."
The FCC had originally proposed fining 169 Fox stations, but ultimately the fine was directed at just the 13 that had received complaints about the show. But Fox rejected it, saying that neither it nor Sinclair Broadcast Group nor Mountain Licenses would pay. Despite Fox’s rejection, four of its affiliates did pay the fine, and the FCC dropped another station's fine after it turned out that no viewer had complained in that station’s viewing area, says TV Week. Late on Friday, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit 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."