Bush Signs TV Smut Bill

As expected, President George Bush signed into law a bill raising fines for broadcast indecency tenfold. "This is a good bipartisan bill. It's going to help American parents by making broadcast television and radio more family-friendly," Bush said at the signing ceremony June 15. "Parents are the first line of defense
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As expected, President George Bush signed into law a bill raising fines for broadcast indecency tenfold.

"This is a good bipartisan bill. It's going to help American parents by making broadcast television and radio more family-friendly," Bush said at the signing ceremony June 15. "Parents are the first line of defense, but broadcasters and the electronics industry must play a valuable role in protecting our children from obscene and indecent programming."

The Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act raises the penalty from $32,500 to $325,000 for each individual violation, with a cap of $3 million. The bill made it through both chambers on the Hill in recent weeks, after having been stalled in the Senate Commerce Committee for months.

The impetus for jacking up broadcast indecency fines began with the split-second appearance of Janet Jackson's breast during the 2004 Super Bowl half time show. Since then, activists have flooded the FCC with complaints of indecent TV content. The FCC responded with $4.5 million in fines levied and/or reconfirmed in March. Of that, CBS was fined $550,000 for the offending breast. The commission earlier this month declined a request from CBS the reconsider the anatomical fine. The network and several affiliates are also debating the commission over $3.3 million in fines issued for a single episode of "Without a Trace."

According to several published reports, none of those who filed complaints about the program actually saw it. The information, revealed in a Freedom of Information Act request from the affiliates, revealed that no complaints were filed until nearly two weeks after the show aired, when an alert was issued by the Parents Television Council, the reports said. PTC chief Brent Bozell stood by his members' rights to file complaints, and said of the bill signing, "We hope that the hefty fines will cause the multibillion dollar broadcast networks to finally take the law seriously."

The broadcast lobby stuck to its position that the industry ought to police itself; and if not, regulations should apply across distribution channels.

"In issues related to programming content, NAB believes responsible self-regulation is preferable to government regulation," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. "If there is regulation, it should be applied equally to cable and satellite TV, and satellite radio."