Increasing pressure from America's federal moral guardians is having the required effect on broadcasters who, in the censors' view, overstep the decency mark.

The largest fine ever imposed by the Federal Communications Commission has been levied on the 169 Fox TV stations that showed an episode of a reality TV show in which topless couples did unmentionable things with whipped cream before the 10pm watershed.

Each of the TV stations airing the offending item in an otherwise unremarkable program, Married by America, will have to pay $7,000 (€5,500, £3,770), a total of $1.18 million.

The FCC says the show was aired at a time when children were likely to be watching and 'involved depictions of sexual activity and was patently offensive'.

Fox, controlled by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, has argued against the FCC's view but has not yet decided whether it will appeal the fine.

Family watchdog groups in the US are becoming increasingly vociferous in their opposition to sex on mainstream television. The Viacom-owned CBS network was fined $550,000 after Janet Jackson's breast was seen by millions of America's new puritans during a half-time Super Bowl concert in February.

A spokeswoman for the Parents Television Council has welcomed the FCC's action against Fox and hopes it will send a clear message to other broadcasters to exercise more caution

Data sourced from AdAge (USA); additional content by WARC staff