Indecency Record: $3.6M Without a Trace

The Federal Communications Commission Wednesday announced the largest indecency fine ever for a single television or radio broadcast.

The agency, led by Republican chairman Kevin Martin, said it planned to fine 111 CBS stations a combined $3,607,500, or $32,500 per station, which is the legal maximum.

The FCC ruled that the program Without a Trace violated federal indecency rules because it contained “material graphically depicting teen-age boys and girls participating in a sexual orgy.”

TV and radio stations are banned from airing indecent content between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Without a Trace aired at 9 p.m. in the Central and Mountain time zones Dec. 31, 2004.

The FCC defines indecency as material that “must describe or depict sexual or excretory organs or activities and must be patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium.”

"CBS ... strongly disagrees with the FCC's finding that the Dec. 31, 2004, broadcast of Without a Trace was indecent," the network said in a prepared statement. "The program -- which aired in the last hour of primetime and carried a ‘TV 14’ V-chip parental guideline -- featured an important and socially relevant story line warning parents to exercise greater supervision of their teen-age children. The program was not unduly graphic or explicit, and we will pursue all remedies necessary to affirm our legal rights, while knowing that millions of Americans give their stamp of approval to Without a Trace each week."