Thursday, June 08, 2006

Will indecency fines drive more talent and better programming to satellite radio?

June 8, 2006

Bill to raise indecency fines goes to Bush
By Reuters, Story last modified Thu Jun 08 05:12:09 PDT 2006

Legislation boosting fines tenfold on broadcast television and radio stations that violate decency standards was sent Wednesday to President Bush in a victory for conservative groups.
The bill raising fines to $325,000 per violation, which Bush said he would sign, caps fines at $3 million for continuing violations. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the measure by a 379-35 vote on Wednesday, while the Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent last month.
The punishment was less than groups like the Christian Coalition and Parents Television Council had sought, but the passage of the bill could help bolster support for Republicans who are facing tough re-election races in November.

"This legislation will make television and radio more family friendly by allowing the FCC to impose stiffer fines on broadcasters who air obscene or indecent programming," Bush said in a statement. "I look forward to signing this important legislation into law."
The current maximum fine is $32,500 per violation.

The legislation is the culmination of two years of lobbying for higher fines sparked by pop singer Janet Jackson, whose bare breast was briefly exposed on national television during the 2004 Super Bowl football halftime entertainment show. Twenty CBS Corp. television stations were fined a total of $550,000 for the stunt. But that penalty was a fraction of what CBS charged for 30-second advertising spots during one of the most-watched annual sporting events.

U.S. regulations bar obscene material from being aired and limit broadcast television and radio stations from showing indecent material, like sexually explicit scenes or profanity. Indecent content is only allowed between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. when children are less likely to be watching or listening.

Those regulations do not apply to satellite television and radio, or cable television. Some lawmakers had considered expanding the rules to include those subscription services but feared a court would find that it violated free speech rights.

Shortly after the Jackson incident, the House had passed a broad bill to raise fines to $500,000 per violation and make it easier to fine individuals who pushed the envelope on broadcast television and radio. That bill would also have required the FCC, which enforces the decency standards, to consider revoking a broadcaster's license after three violations.

The legislation to boost fines languished for over a year until the Senate backed a narrower bill by Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, a possible 2008 presidential candidate, which simply boosted the fines tenfold. House leaders admitted it would have been difficult to quickly work out their differences with the Senate. Because they had support of parents groups and conservatives, House leaders acquiesced to passing the narrower bill.

"Parents will be able to take a little more comfort when their kids turn on the TV or radio during the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.," said Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican who had championed tougher penalties. Get ting the House bill through the Senate was listed as No. 5 on the Christian Coalition's 2006 legislative agenda. "We hope that the hefty fines will cause the multi-billion-dollar broadcast networks finally to take the law seriously," said Parents Television Council President Brent Bozell.

Radio shock jock Howard Stern, whose antics led to indecency fines for many broadcast radio stations, jumped to satellite radio in January as higher penalties loomed.
During brief floor debate in the House on Tuesday night, one lawmaker said higher fines would not solve the problem.

"The indecent media culture we witness today will not be modified by simply increasing fines, it must be transformed through less media consolidation and greater requirements to serve the public interest," said Rep. Diane Watson, a California Democrat

link to article: here

6/08/2006 08:40:00 AM

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