Feb 11 2004

Brownback and Graham Get Tough on Broadcasting Indecency

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senators Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) introduced legislation enabling the Federal Communications Commission to increase tenfold the fine on television and radio broadcasters who violate the FCC decency rules. The Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2004 increases the maximum fine for each violation to $275,000 and the total penalty for continued violations could be as much as $3 million. Current law caps penalties at $27,500 per offense. “For many years, I have been a proponent of ensuring that the content released on our nation’s airwaves is free from indecent and inappropriate material,” said Brownback, “Recently, much attention has been given to the FCC and the enforcement of its indecency rules regarding this issue due to a particular expletive used during the live broadcast of the Golden Globe Awards ceremony last year and compounded by the inappropriate Super Bowl Half Time show. This bill will increase, by tenfold, the forfeiture penalties for broadcasting obscenity, indecency or profanity. This will increase the penalties for a single obscene or indecent incident from $27,500 to $275,000. Until the penalties are punitive, there will be little incentive for broadcasters to curb this inappropriate behavior.” Brownback is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and serves on the Communications Subcommittee. “We need to make sure broadcasters air appropriate programming, especially when children are likely to be in the audience,” said Graham. “For too long we have stood on the sidelines and let indecent programming get out of hand. We need to do more to protect the public from indecent programming and this bill will cause broadcasters to think twice before allowing indecent materials on the airwaves. The current penalty is a mere slap on the wrist. It’s time we put a little more sting into the punishment.” Graham testified before the Senate Committee on Energy and Commerce in support of the increased penalties. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. A similar bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last month. Additional Senate sponsors of the bill include Senators George Allen (R-Virginia), Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). The legislation has garnered support from the administration, commissioners at the FCC, and family groups such as Focus on the Family. #####