Decency bill one step closer to becoming law

Published 12:51 pm Monday, May 22, 2006

By Staff
WASHINGTON, DC - Congressman Fred Upton (R-Michigan), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, applauded the Senate's approval of decency legislation.
The Senate passed S.193 by voice vote last week, which raises the amount the FCC can fine for indecency from $32,500 to $325,000 per violation. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed Upton's bipartisan Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, H.R. 310, by a vote of 389 to 38 on Feb. 16th, 2005.
Upton's bill raises the fines to $500,000 per violation. Upton is hopeful that an agreement with the Senate will soon be reached.
The current cap for fines is $32,500 - to put that into perspective, a 30 second commercial aired during this year's Super Bowl will cost $2.6 million - averaging more than $86,000 per second. Upton's bill first passed the House March 11th, 2004, by a vote of 391 to 22 and the Senate passed similar legislation by a vote of 99 to 1 on June 22nd, 2004. Because the legislative session expired before an agreement could be reached, Upton reintroduced the bill at the beginning of the 109th Congress in January 2005.
In addition to raising the fines from $32,500 to $500,000 per violation, Upton's legislation also mandates a license revocation hearing (but does not dictate the outcome of the hearing) after the third offense by a broadcaster (the FCC currently has the authority to hold such a hearing after the first offense, but is not mandated to do so) and also imposes on the FCC a 180 day “shot clock” to act on indecency complaints filed by consumers. Additionally, the bill raises the amount the FCC can fine networks and entertainers who willfully or intentionally violate indecency standards from $11,000 to $500,000.
The bill also includes protections for affiliates from fines in instances, like the 2004 Super Bowl, where they did not know what was soon to be broadcast by the network.