Fox Wants Answers from FCC on 'American Dad' Indecency Inquiry

Fox and most of its stations have asked the FCC to hold off on its inquiry into the airing by Fox stations of a Jan. 3, 2010, episode of American Dad that drew indecency complaints over its storyline suggesting the manual servicing of a stud (horse).

Fox O&O's and the vast majority of its 203 affiliates asked the FCC June 22 for a stay of its indecency inquiry and extension of time for the commission to resolve the issue of whether it should supply an affiliate with a copy of a complaint from its market before asking it to respond to the complaint.

The FCC earlier this month proposed fining Fox TV Stations $25,000 for not providing it with the answers to some questions about the show, including a list of all the stations (owned and affiliated) that had aired it. Fox counters that it did address all the substantive questions about the broadcast, but only relative to the one complaint the FCC produced.

Fox will respond to that fine proposal separately, but Tuesday's move is to get the FCC to answer Fox's question about why any of its stations should have to respond before seeing the complaint from its individual market. "Its like being asked to face your accuser without knowing what evidence the government has against you," said a lawyer involved in the case.

Saying it was a "courtesy" to Fox, the FCC had 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. The FCC then sent individual letters of inquiry to all the Fox affiliates, which is the inquiry Fox wants to put the brakes on until it gets a response to its own question.

According to a source, Fox has yet to receive a response to its FOIA request for copies of all the complaints against the show.

If a storyline involving the masturbation of a horse sounds familiar, that's because the FCC once before received complaints about a Fox show featuring a similar stud service performed by a prostitute. In that case, involving an episode of Keen Eddie, a three to two majority--with Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein dissenting--denied the indecency complaint, noting that the episode "contains no graphic or explicit dialogue, discussion, depiction or description of any particular sexual or excretory organ or activity."

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.