Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act is signed

President Bush signed the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act bill, which increases the FCC's maximum fines for what it terms indecent content to $325,000 from the previous maximum of $32,500.

The legislation also gives the FCC authority to levy a fine of as much as $3 million on a broadcast company for an incident seen on multiple stations.

“The problem we have is that the maximum penalty that the FCC can impose under current law is just $32,500 per violation,” Bush said. “And for some broadcasters, this amount is meaningless. It's relatively painless for them when they violate decency standards. And so the Congress decided to join the administration and do something about it.”

The legislation, a hard blow to terrestrial broadcasters, does not apply to pay media services. The NAB claims it is unfair to single out broadcast stations while allowing their competitors to air unregulated content.

“In issues related to programming content, NAB believes responsible self-regulation is preferable to government regulation,” the organization said in a news release. “If there is regulation, it should be applied equally to cable and satellite TV, and satellite radio.”

The issue of fines for FCC-perceived indecency is likely to be decided by the courts through cases already filed and cases to be filed in the future.