The U.S. House of Representatives followed the Senate’s lead and fast-tracked approval today of The Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act that increases 10x the FCC’s maximum broadcast indecency fine to $325,000 per violation. Since the two bills are identical, it will be signed by President George W. Bush within weeks. “Raising the fines for abusing the public airwaves will hold broadcasters accountable for the content and consequences of their media,” claimed the bill’s sponsor, U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan). Broadcasting & Cable trade journal reported that consideration of a bill hiking FCC indecency fines predates the notorious Janet Jackson Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” in February 2004, and has some of its genesis in the Opie & Anthony “Sex in St. Patrick’s Cathedral” stunt on WNEW(AM). The FCC proposed a $357,000 fine for that, though Viacom ultimately settled that and other fines in a 2004, $3.5 million settlement. But Jackson was the momentum behind Senate hearings on indecency and a House bill that passed with stronger provisions than Brownback’s bill, including upping the fines on performers and bringing a station license into play after numerous indecency violations. Those provisions were opposed by performer unions and broadcasters. Ultimately, those were absent from the Senate bill, and subsequently the House bill, which led to the fast action on both.
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