FCC Cancels Fines After Time Zone Error

Apr 3, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Conceding a blunder, the Federal Communications Commission last Wednesday canceled eight of the indecency fines it issued recently to 111 CBS affiliates for airing a Dec. 31, 2004, episode of the network’s “Without a Trace”-because the program aired after 10 p.m. on the eight stations.

The FCC’s indecency prohibitions apply only to programming aired between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

John Mann, president and general manager of CBS affiliate WSBT-TV in South Bend, Ind., one of the stations that had a fine canceled, said the FCC was apparently unaware that some Indiana and Tennessee stations are in the Eastern time zone, and that those stations had broadcast the CBS show after 10 p.m. “It’s nice not to have to fork over [$32,500],” Mr. Mann said.

Added Chris Baker, executive VP and general manager of CBS affiliate WVLT-TV in Knoxville, Tenn., “We sent [the FCC] copies of our program log showing that it aired after 10 p.m. It was just obviously an error on their part.”

The other CBS affiliates that had their fines canceled are WTHI-TV in Terre Haute, Ind.; WANE-TV in Fort Wayne, Ind.; WISH-TV in Indianapolis; WLFI-TV in Lafayette, Ind.; WDEF-TV in Chattanooga, Tenn.; and WJHL-TV in Johnson City, Tenn.

The FCC held that the episode of “Without a Trace” had a scene that crossed the line by depicting an orgy. Each of the stations that received a complaint were fined $32,500 apiece.