FCC Levies $25K Fine Vs. Fox For Not Responding To Indecency Request
June 3, 2010 at 12:46 PM (PT)
The indecency war between the FCC and FOX has taken on a new dimension with the Commission proposing a $25,000 fine against the network for failure to provide information and documents regarding the JANUARY 3rd, 2010 episode of the SETH MACFARLANE animated sitcom "AMERICAN DAD."
The Commission claimed to have received over 10,000 complaints about the show, and FOX did not respond to the FCC request, other than to ask that the requirement to respond to the fifth inquiry in the FCC's letter, regarding whether the show was submitted to the network's Program Practices department, be suspended, which it was.
The network's DALLAS license holder, NW COMMUNICATIONS, filed a response that said the requests being made by the Commission were beyond the scope of the FCC's authority, but the network itself did not, and has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the purported 10,000 complaints. NW's response noted that the Commission had not provided complaint letters from each market and therefore only the one affiliate mentioned in the only complaint provided -- KDFW-TV (FOX 4)/DALLAS -- needed to respond. It also objected to the FCC asking for NIELSEN ratings for the show, saying that the ratings had no bearing on whether the show was indecent.
The Enforcement Bureau rejected the arguments and the Commission asserted that "Commission precedent holding that forfeiture penalties will be assessed only against the licensee of a station in a market in which there was a viewer complaint filed with the Commission about the programming is irrelevant to FOX's obligation to respond to Commission inquiries ... (P)arties must comply with Bureau orders even if they believe them to be outside the Commission's authority."
Calling FOX's refusal to cooperate "egregious," the Commission revised the proposed fine upward from the base of $4,000 to $25,000, saying "FOX's apparent violation has delayed our investigation, caused the Commission to expend additional, significant resources to send individual LOIs to 235 FOX-owned or affiliated stations, and inhibited our ability to examine allegations raised in viewers' indecency complaints."