University of Southern California

Pacifica is Dead. Long Live Pacifica: Formulating a New Argument Structure to Reserve Government Regulation of Indecent Broadcasts

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Note by Joshua B. Gordon
From Volume 79, Number 6 (September, 2006)

At 9:00 PM on April 7, 2003, Fox Broadcasting (“Fox”) aired the penultimate episode of Married by America, a reality television show that allowed the public to select potential spouses for its contestants. Six minutes of the episode detailed the remaining two couples’ bachelor and bachelorette parties, during which strippers attempted to “lure participants into sexual activities.” Of the five million people who watched the broadcast, ninety complaints were filed with the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”), the government agency that regulates television communications. In October 2004, the FCC determined that the six-minute segment contained explicit and patently offensive depictions of sexual activities. It thus determined that the content was indecent and in violation of federal law. For this violation, the FCC penalized both Fox and 169 Fox affiliates by issuing a Notice of Apparent Liability for $1,183,000 in fines. At the time, this was the largest proposed fine, or “forfeiture,” in FCC history.

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