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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 October, 2004, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Strippers earn record US TV fine
Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake
Janet Jackson's flash led to a crackdown on indecency by the FCC
US regulators have fined TV network Fox nearly $1.2m for an episode of a reality show which showed strippers at a stag party.

The Federal Communications Commission said the sexual nature of the Married by America footage was "inescapable".

The fine tops the $550,000 fine levied at CBS for Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" at this year's Super Bowl.

"We disagree with the FCC's decision and believe the content is not indecent," said a spokesman for Fox.

FCC members voted unanimously to fine each of the 169 Fox TV stations that aired the programme $7,000 (3,900) each, bringing the total fine to $1,183,000 (658,000).

Even a child would have known that the strippers were topless and that sexual activity was being shown
Federal Communications Commission

It is a record fine for a television broadcaster, and the first for a reality TV show, although other complaints are being investigated. Fox has 30 days in which to appeal against the decision.

Married by America, which was not a hit in the ratings, asked the voting public to create couples from a line-up of single contestants.

The couples then went through the rituals of dating, though none ultimately married.

'Whipped cream'

The controversial episode aired in April 2003, and featured explicit sexual scenes from hen and stag parties.

"Even with Fox's editing, the episode includes scenes in which partygoers lick whipped cream from strippers' bodies in a sexually suggestive manner," said the FCC.

"Although the nudity was pixelated, even a child would have known that the strippers were topless and that sexual activity was being shown."

The FCC received 159 complaints about the show, following the broadcast.

Federal law prevents non-cable TV and radio stations from showing sexual content between 0600 and 2200, when children are most likely to be watching.

Married by America aired at 2000 or 2100, depending on which Fox station broadcast it.

The FCC's recent crackdown on indecency has led critics such as Howard Stern to claim the commission is removing the democratic right to free speech.

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