Fox won't pay gov't fine for pixelation


WASHINGTON -- The Fox Network refused to pay the federal government a $91,000 fine for indecent exposure during an episode of the defunct reality program "Married to America" in which possibly offending body parts were pixelated.

In papers filed at the FCC on Monday, the company told the commission it wasn't going to pay the fine and asked it to review its decision to issue the fine.

"Fox believes that the FCC's decision in this case was arbitrary and capricious, inconsistent with precedent and patently unconstitutional," the network said in a statement.

The commission is unlikely to change its mind in the case. Fox's decision to refuse the fine and ask for reconsideration moves the case closer to a court date.

In February the commission fined 13 Fox stations and affiliates $7,000 each saying that simply pixelating female breasts and buttocks during a raunchy bachelor party scene in the April 2003 show do not indemnify broadcasters from commission action.

"To be sure, the pixelation of the female strippers' naked breasts and buttocks does render the material less explicit and graphic than it would have been in the absence of pixelation," the commission said in its order fining the stations. "However, the material is still sufficiently graphic and explicit to support an indecency finding."

The commission has been embroiled in controversy over its aggressive tactics on the indecency question, leading the U.S. Supreme Court to step into the issue.

Last week the court said it will hear arguments over the FCC's policy regarding so-called "fleeting expletives" in a closely watched case that will decide whether the government can fine or revoke a broadcaster's license because someone says a bad word. The case will be argued late this year.

That case surrounds two incidents on Fox broadcasters in which celebrities used profanity during the Billboard Music Awards when Cher and Nicole Richie used versions of the words "fuck" and "shit."