FCC Levies Millions in Indecency Fines

Mar 15, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday resolved 300,000 television obscenity complaints, levying millions of dollars in fines and providing producers and broadcasters guidance on what material will run afoul of indecency standards. The FCC also affirmed a $550,000 fine against the CBS Broadcast Network for its 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, in which singer Janet Jackson’s breast was exposed.

The FCC issued fines totaling more than $4.5 million to 137 TV stations. That figure includes a penalty of more than $3.6 million to CBS’s 111 affiliates ($32,500 apiece) for their airing of a Dec. 31, 2004, episode of the network’s drama “Without a Trace.” The agency said the episode included material “graphically depicting teenage boys and girls participating in a sexual orgy.”

Also included in the total is the $550,000 fine the agency levied on CBS and its 20 owned-and-operated TV stations for the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.

The indecency rulings, the first released by the agency under Chairman Kevin Martin, added the S-word to terms that are off-limits to broadcasters, declaring it presumptively indecent.

The fines may signal that Mr. Martin, a Republican, plans to revive a campaign against indecency started by his predecessor, Michael Powell, that reached a crescendo during the last election campaign.

In a statement, CBS said it continues to disagree that its 2004 Super Bowl coverage was indecent. “We will continue to pursue all remedies necessary to affirm our legal rights,” the network said in a statement.

The network also said it strongly disagrees that the “Without a Trace” episode crossed over the line. “The program, which aired in the last hour of prime time and carried a ‘TV 14’ v-chip parental guideline, featured an important and socially relevant story line warning parents to exercise greater supervision of their teenage children,” 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.”

In resolving complaints filed by viewers between 2002 and 2005, the FCC also cited WB affiliates for “The Surreal Life 2.” In addition, the commission deemed indecent Telemundo’s broadcast of a movie containing a graphic rape scene and a broadcast of talk program “The Fernando Hidalgo Show” on Sherjan Broadcasting-owned WJAN-CA in Miami in which a female guest appeared in an open-front dress.

Martin Statement

Copps Statement

Adelstein Statement (FCC 06-17)

Adelstein Statement (FCC 06-18)

Adelstein Statement (FCC 06-19)

Complaints Regarding Various Television Broadcasts Between February 2, 2002 and March 8, 2005.

Complaints Against Various Television Licensees Concerning their December 31, 2004 Broadcast of the Program “Without A Trace.”

Complaints Against Various Television Licensees concerning their February 1, 2004 Broadcast of the Super Bowl XXXVIII Halftime Show.