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Senate OKs Hike in Indecency Fine

May 22, 2006  •  Post A Comment

TV producers and broadcasters will probably become even more skittish about racy content in the wake of the Senate’s unanimous approval last week of legislation that would raise the cap on indecency fines tenfold to $325,000.

“The big chill gets glacial,” said Jonathan Rintels, a film and TV writer who serves as executive director of Hollywood’s Center for Creative Voices in Media.

The Senate vote is a victory for the Parents Television Council, which argued that the former $32,500 fine was too low to discourage broadcasters from airing off-color content.

“It’s time that broadcast indecency fines represent a real economic penalty and not just a slap on the wrist,” said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., the sponsor of the Senate legislation, in a statement after the vote.

The House of Representatives approved legislation last year that would raise the cap on Federal Communications Commission broadcast indecency fines to $500,000. Top lawmakers will iron out the differences between the House and Senate bills to clear the way for President Bush to sign an increase into law.

Along with increasing the cap, the House version of the legislation includes provisions that would clear the way for the agency to fine on-air talent for infractions-not just the broadcast licensees-and would allow the FCC to revoke the licenses of repeat offenders.

Neither bill extends agency indecency prohibitions to cable or satellite TV, which are exempt from FCC enforcement.

Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters, said, “In issues related to programming content, NAB believes responsible self-regulation is preferable to government regulation. If there is regulation, it should be applied equally to cable and satellite TV, and satellite radio.”