Fox Broadcasting Co. and 155 Fox televisions stations on Dec. 3 urged U.S. communications regulators to rescind their proposed $1.18 million fine for airing allegedly indecent content on the "Married

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Reuters) -- Fox Broadcasting Co. and 155 Fox televisions stations on Dec. 3 urged U.S. communications regulators to rescind their proposed $1.18 million fine for airing allegedly indecent content on the "Married by America" show.

The network and stations said the Federal Communications Commission's attempt to fine the stations violated free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution and contradicted the agency's past decisions.

The FCC said it proposed fining the stations $7,000 each for airing an April 2003 episode of the matchmaking reality program that showed sexually explicit and graphic scenes at a time when children were likely to be watching.

The agency also proposed fining another 14 Fox stations, but they are pursuing their own responses to the FCC. Some Fox affiliates chose not to air the episode. Fox Broadcasting is a unit of Fox Entertainment Group, which is majority owned by News Corp.

Federal rules bar television and radio stations from airing indecent material, typically sexually explicit in nature, except during late night hours when children are less likely to be listening or watching.

The FCC said scenes in the show -- such as a topless woman straddling a man, whipped cream being licked off one woman's bare chest and an underwear-clad man being spanked by two topless female strippers -- were sufficiently graphic and explicit to be deemed indecent.

The nudity was obscured by blurring known as pixilation, but "even a child would have known that the strippers were topless and that sexual activity was being shown," the FCC had said.

"The material is gratuitous, vulgar and clearly intended to pander to and titillate," the agency said.

Fox countered that it aired warnings to parents before the show and that it carried a rating that indicated it included themes and subject matter that some may find "unsuitable for children under the age of 14."

"The content clearly was not graphic or explicit -- on the contrary, the program pixilated or obscured all nudity," Fox said. "Nor did the episode dwell on or repeat at length any allegedly offensive material, as the activities alleged to be indecent comprised just 105 seconds in an hour-long program."

The broadcasters also noted that the FCC's definition of broadcast indecency was similar to one used in a law that tried to limit such content on the Internet but was struck down by the Supreme Court.

An FCC spokesman declined to comment.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

Print