NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
The Fox Television Network is preparing to challenge a proposed $1.2 million fine tied to its short-lived reality show "Married By America," according to a report Tuesday.
Broadcasting & Cable, an industry trade publication, said 169 stations either owned by Fox or affiliated with the News Corp. unit will refuse to pay fines levied an April 2003 broadcast of an episode of "Married by America" that featured a topless woman straddling a man and male stripper putting a woman's hand down his pants, among other graphic scenes.
Late last year the Federal Communications Commission announced that the episode violated federal rules against indecent programming and fined each of the Fox stations $7,000. Collectively those fines added up to $1.18 million, which marked a record for a television program.
The FCC penalty, however, was a proposal. While media companies typically pay proposed FCC fines, they are not legally required to do so absent a court order. To get one, the federal government would have to file a lawsuit.
Broadcasting & Cable reported that the Fox stations are prepared to force the Justice Department to take the dispute to court. Fox has denied that the broadcast broke regulations intended to protect young viewers from salacious programming.
The Fox move comes amid signs that the broadcast industry is eager to take on the FCC after a year of record-setting indecency fines, according to the trade publication.
General Electric's NBC is fighting an FCC finding against its 2003 Golden Globes broadcast, in which U2 lead singer Bono uttered an expletive on air. Viacom is also appealing a $550,000 fine proposed against CBS stations for a brief sighting of Janet Jackson's naked breast during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.
The networks could be hoping for a court order that will strike down the FCC's interpretation of federal indecency rules.
But the FCC's newly aggressive enforcement is not all that the entertainment industry has to worry about.
A bill pending in Congress would increase the maximum fine from $32,500 to $500,000 per violation. The legislation, which passed the House, has not been put up for a vote in the Senate.
According to Broadcasting & Cable, the American Civil Liberties Union is urging media companies and consumer activists to unite in an effort to defeat the legislation.