Fox affiliates think they have grounds to escape their share of a $1.18 million fine the Federal Communications Commission proposed against stations that aired Fox program Married by America.
The decision to fine them came as a shocker to Fox’s 140 affiliates, which each face a $7,000 levy for airing an episode that featured raunchy bachelor and bachelorette parties, including scenes of party goers licking whip cream off a stripper’s naked body and a male stripper putting a woman's hand down the front of his pants.
The Fox affiliates were floored by the decision because CBS affiliates were let of the hook when the commission proposed fining that network’s O&Os for Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during live coverage of the Super Bowl halftime show.
This time around, the FCC said, affiliates should be fined because the Fox program was taped and stations could preview and preempt the show.
The FCC pointed out that Capital Broadcasting’s WRAZ-TV Raleigh did preempt Married by America.
But affiliates say the commission is way off base contending that affiliates can prescreen prime time shows. “It’s simply a feed that comes over the satellite when the show airs,” said Kurt Wimmer, a Washington attorney for TV station groups with Fox affiliates.
WRAZ had no chance to prescreen the Married by America episode, but instead had decided to stop running the entire series weeks before.
Wimmer also took the FCC to task for not seeking a response from affiliates before proposing the fine and for fining some stations that never received a complaint.
Fox affiliates haven’t yet filed a formal appeal, which is due Nov. 12.