CBS ( CBS) stations and affiliates are facing a $3.6 million fine for airing a scene deemed indecent. The Federal Communications Commission crackdown comes as complaints regarding broadcasting indecency continue to rise. The record-setting fine is being levied against CBS stations related to an elaborate orgy scene involving minors in an episode of the crime drama Without a Trace. At the same time, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin cleared the deck of thousands of complaints logged over three years and leveled $300,000 in smaller fines against others. CBS will appeal. "CBS strongly disagrees with the FCC's finding that the December 31, 2004, broadcast of Without A Trace was indecent," CBS said. "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." While TV broadcasters are subject to FCC whims, cable and satellite competitors are not regulated, which some broadcasters say gives their competitors an unfair programming advantage. Fox Television Network was cited for violating decency standards when Nicole Richie used a four-letter word starting with F at an awards show, but the FCC dropped that case. The agency came down on an NBC Universal-owned Telemundo station in Miami for a Spanish-language talk show and an episode of The Surreal Life 2 on the WB. The FCC passed on a variety of other complaints, including some related to animated show The Simpsons. The indecency fine comes two years after the infamous Janet Jackson incident during the Super Bowl halftime show. This week the FCC upheld its $550,000 fine related to the shocker, despite a CBS appeal. "These decisions, taken both individually and as a whole, demonstrate the Commission's continued commitment to enforcing the law prohibiting the airing of obscene, indecent and profane material," said FCC chief Kevin Martin. Of the Super Bowl fine, Martin added, "We appropriately reject the argument that CBS continues to make that this material is not indecent. That argument runs counter to Commission precedent and common sense."
CBS Corp shares were up 1 cent on Thursday to $24.35.