FCC Proposes Fine for Fox TV over Response to 'American Dad' Complaint

The FCC has proposed fining Fox TV Stations $25,000 for not providing it with all the information it sought from
the station group owner over the Jan. 3, 2010 episode of American Dad that drew over 100,000 indecency complaints.

The base fine for failing to respond fully is $4,000, but the FCC increased it five-fold, saying the alleged
offense was egregious and Fox has deep pockets. "Fox's ability to pay warrants the upward adjustment of the
forfeiture amount to serve as a deterrent to future misconduct," sid the FCC.

The fine is not for airing the show but against the group for not supplying a list of all the stations that aired the show and other information the FCC asked for. Fox counters that it did address all the substantive questions about the broadcast.

Saying it was a "courtesy" to Fox, the FCC supplied it with a copy of a complaint against Fox's KDFW(TV) Dallas,
but with the request for information on all of the stations that might have aired the show. Fox instead responded with information about KDFW's airing only, said the FCC, and did not provide ratings information for that market. Fox argued that the FCC needed to first produce the complaints from those other markets, according to the FCC.

Fox argued that the information requests for group information on airings or parental guidelines was beyond the FCC's authority. The FCC disagreed, and said in its notice proposing the fine that "parties must comply with
Bureau orders even if they believe them to be outside the Commission's authority."

The FCC even suggested providing all the information might help Fox. It said that the full list of stations might allow some to be excluded from the investigation if the edited or chose not to air it.

But the commission also justified its request for information on all the stations by citing the "breadth and magnitude of the viewer complaints received."
"We are puzzled by the FCC's Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) in light of the fact that we responded to all of
the questions related to the substance of the Letter of Inquiry (LOI)," Fox said in a statement. "We will respond
in greater detail to the Commission in due course."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.