US Government Sues Fox for Non-Payment of 'Indecency' Fines

08 April 2008

WASHINGTON, DC: It's the might of the US government versus the media muscle of Rupert Murdoch (pictured) over a little matter of alleged broadcast indecency and the clan chieftain's refusal to pay a $1.2 million (€762.6k; £60.2k) fine for the aforesaid transgression.

As to the outcome of the bout, the smart money is on the latter whose multimedia assets probably command more US votes than the McCain, Clinton and Obama camps put together.

In 2003 the Australian-American's Fox Broadcasting Company aired Married by America, a so-called 'reality' show which featured the "thrusting of a male stripper's crotch into a woman's face" (among other equally dubious delights).

It was duly deemed indecent by the Federal Communications Commission and in October 2004 the fine was duly levied on 169 Fox-affiliated TV stations – regardless of whether a complaint had been lodged against a particular station.

Faced with steely Murdochian resolve, the FCC duly backed down over all but thirteen of the stations, where public complaints had been lodged. This slashed the fine to a mere $91,000 - petty cash by Fox standards. 

Despite which the broadcaster refused to pay a cent, declaring that the FCC's decision in the case was "arbitrary and capricious, inconsistent with precedent and patently unconstitutional."

Its patience exhausted by Murdoch's foot-dragging, the FCC called the Justice Department and a writ demanding payment has duly been served.

Says Fox spokesman Scott Grogin: "We look forward to the opportunity to present the full factual and legal arguments in the Married by America case to an impartial and open court of law."

  • Meantime, a rare downturn for a Fox business. Online ad revenues at Fox Interactive Media – the online holding company that includes MySpace – have not flowed as fluidly as predicted and the division is unlikely to hit its $1bn revenue target.

    In an earnings call last year the NewsCorp chairman/ceo said he would be “surprised” if FIM revenues did not exceed $1bn in the fiscal year ending June 30.

    The unit said it expected "to be close" to the target.

  • Data sourced from USA Today and Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff