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Commerce Secretary backs FCC plan to increase indecency fines

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    News Media Update         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Broadcasting    

Commerce Secretary backs FCC plan to increase indecency fines

  • A bill that would increase the maximum fine for “indecency” in broadcasting from $27,500 to $275,000 is gaining support, both in the House and the Bush administration.

Feb. 5, 2004 — Commerce Secretary Donald Evans wrote a letter last week to Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, in support of a proposed bill that would raise the maximum fine for broadcasting indecency from $27,500 to $275,000.

Evans suggested in his letter — made public during a Jan. 28 hearing on the bill by the House Energy and Commerce Committee — that the Federal Communications Commission be required to at least “consider” the maximum fine when an indecency violation occurs during the time designated as children’s viewing hours, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act would also allow the FCC to levy fines of up to $3 million for repeat offenders.

The commission deems a radio or television broadcast “indecent” when it includes suggestive sexual content, such as nudity, and when certain profane words are aired during children’s viewing hours.

House Democrats and Republicans alike have sponsored legislation to increase FCC fines. Upton introduced the legislation following a Jan. 14 speech by FCC Chairman Michael Powell in which he called for tougher penalties. Addressing the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Powell said the current fines are financially inconsequential to those who violate indecency standards.

“They’re just a cost of doing business,” Powell said. “That has to change.”

FCC commissioners Kevin Martin and Jonathan Adelstein have both spoken out in favor of the proposed fine increases.

(HR 3687, HR 3717) LH

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