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Bills aim to raise indecency fines

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    News Media Update         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Broadcasting         Feb. 10, 2005    

Bills aim to raise indecency fines

  • House and Senate bills reintroduced in an effort to scrub broadcasts of indecency.

Feb. 10, 2005 — Radio and television broadcasts deemed “indecent” by federal regulators would face stiffer fines under two bills introduced in Congress, including one approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday by a 46-2 vote.

Reps. Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) voted no on a bill that would raise the maximum fine for obscenity from $32,500 to $500,000 per incident. The bill, introduced by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) in January and headed to the full House, would protect network affiliates in instances such as last year’s Super Bowl, where 20 CBS network affiliates were fined for Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the halftime show.

In the Senate, Sens. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) reintroduced a bill in January to expand the Federal Communication Commission’s ability to fine for indecency.

Brownback introduced a similar bill a year ago, which passed the Senate 99-1, but did not clear the House. This year’s version calls for a minimum fine of $325,000 with a $3 million cap for any single act of indecency.

The House bill also calls for strict deadlines for payments of fines and potential license revocation for multiple offenses. Annual reports by the FCC detailing each infraction and its status would be mandatory under the proposed legislation along with an annual report from the Government Accountability Office examining indecency complaints.

The House bill also sets parameters for calculating fines by taking into account those at fault and the conditions under which the act occurred.

“We will complete the job this time around,” Upton said on his Web site. Upton, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications said he hopes that raised fines will deter broadcasters from “pushing the envelope.”

(H.R. 310, S. 193; The Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005)AB

© 2005 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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