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Senate approves raising fines for indecency

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    News Media Update         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Broadcasting    

Senate approves raising fines for indecency

  • The U.S. Senate passed legislation, 99-1, to significantly increase the maximum fines the FCC can impose upon broadcasters and personalities for airing indecent material.

June 23, 2004 — The U.S. Senate voted 99-1 yesterday to increase the maximum indecency fine the Federal Communications Commission can levy against broadcasters and on-air personalities, to up to $500,000 per incident and up to $3 million a day. The law currently caps the per-incident fine at $27,500 for broadcasters and $11,000 for personalities.

The Senate indecency measure allows for a first-offense fine that can not exceed $275,000, $375,000 for a second violation and $500,000 thereafter. The measure was tacked onto a defense authorization bill expected to be voted on later this week.

The House passed a similar indecency bill in March.

Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) cast the lone dissenting vote, saying in a statement today that he opposed the amendment “because it deals with communications and media issues and should not have been attached to a national security and defense bill.” Breaux further said he disagreed with a provision in the amendment that would repeal the FCC’s new media ownership rules. The commission voted in June 2003 to loosen ownership restrictions that prevent, among other things, a company from owning a newspaper and a TV or radio station in the same community.

If the defense authorization bill is approved, the differences between the Senate and House indecency bills would be negotiated by a conference committee before the final draft is sent to President Bush for his signature or veto. If the defense legislation is not approved, the indecency amendment will simply be attached to another piece of legislation, said a spokesman for Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who sponsored the indecency bill.

The overwhelming approval by the Senate was “a clear statement . . . that they are deeply troubled by the growing indecency over the airways,” Brownback told The Associated Press.

(S. 2056; FY 2005 Department of Defense Authorization) TS

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