The federal agency proposed a record-setting $1.2 million fine against 169 Fox television stations, which in April, aired reality show "Married by America," a program that digitally obscured nudity and strippers. That story was broken Monday by TelevisionWeek.
Now, it appears this is only the start for television and radio, as well. In the weeks to come the FCC will fine Viacom up to $2 million, including its Infinity Broadcasting radio division - the current home of Howard Stern - as well as fines stemming from CBS' Super Bowl halftime Janet Jackson incident in February.
What's next? Many press reports didn't say. But we can only guess.
If the FCC is cracking down on shows with digitally obscured nudity, then one could only imagine many racy reality shows will also be hit. The FCC says if there is a suggestion of nudity or sex that's breaking regulations. Didn't Richard Hatch, winner of CBS' first installment of "Survivor," walk on the beach au natural? That scene was digitally altered.
On ABC's "Desperate Housewives," last week, one desperate housewife has sex with her gardener twice during one episode. No private parts was seen, just a lot of skin. But the suggestion was obvious. That show airs at 9 p.m. Sunday, in the middle of the FCC's no-fly zone, which runs from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
If the FCC is going to cite actions this way, many other shows could see the same results. Press reports say because Oct. 1 is the start of TV station license renewal period, the FCC will be very busy.
Where does this leave TV advertisers? Where they have always been: guessing where the edge is in social appropriateness. It gets somewhat easier as the FCC will be putting more marks - the mark of a dollar value fine - on specific shows.
TV pressure groups hell bent on forcing shows off the air they deem unacceptable for family viewing didn't really matter with "Married in America" - even though they claim a big email campaign helped the FCC take on the issue.
Here's why: "Married in America" - even with the lascivious programming content - has come and gone, a victim of mediocre ratings.
That's the way it's supposed to work when viewers don't like a show.