Broadcast industry executives hope to soon wrap up work on their voluntary recommendations to curb smut on the airwaves in the summer.


LAS VEGAS (The Hollywood Reporter) -- Broadcast industry executives hope to soon wrap up work on their voluntary recommendations to curb smut on the airwaves in the summer.

Executives attending the National Association of Broadcasters' annual trade show said that the work on the recommendations by a task force appointed after the Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction" will be ready in a few weeks.

The executives leading the task force said that they hoped the effort would pay political dividends by showing Washington that the industry was taking the issue seriously.

"I don't want anyone to think that what the task force is doing here can head off or prevent something from happening on [Capitol] Hill," Susquehanna Media Co. president/CEO David Kennedy said. "Rather, what we are trying to do is marshal our forces in the industry.... We want to demonstrate to the Hill and the [Federal Communications Commission] that we can self-regulate, and we're taking this seriously."

The House already has approved legislation that increases the maximum fine for an indecent broadcast from $32,500 per incident to $500,000. Although there is broad sentiment for the legislation, its fate in the Senate remains unclear.

Even without congressional action, the FCC has stepped up enforcement of the indecency statute, perhaps most notably with a proposed $550,000 fine against CBS for its 2004 Super Bowl broadcast that included Janet Jackson's breast-baring "wardrobe malfunction." Radio personality Howard Stern also has been a frequent target.

Lawmakers have showed no signs of backing away from the legislation. During the NAB show, lawmakers including House Commerce Committee chairman Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., expressed strong support.

Barton singled out a provision of the indecency bill that would bring performers under the same regulatory regime as broadcast companies. The bill boosts fines from $11,000 to $500,000 for an individual entertainer and also removes an FCC provision that gave individuals a warning before issuing a fine.

"The House bill has a provision that holds the creative community liable," Barton said. "If the creator decides artistic license calls for saying and doing [something indecent], then I think it's constitutional to hold the creator liable."

Burns said he thought that programming, especially on cable, has gone too far.

Fines for indecent programming exceeded $7.7 million last year. Four years ago, FCC fines totaled $48,000.

The FCC has wide latitude to impose fines on individual companies, groups of stations owned by a company and individual entertainers. In the case of CBS, it imposed a fine of $27,500 against each of 20 stations owned by the network.

It also fined News Corp.'s Fox stations a proposed $1.2 million for airing an episode of its reality series "Married to America."

Although most of the FCC's proposed fines have been settled, CBS and Fox haven't settled those yet, claiming that the FCC misapplied the indecency standard.

Fox Network Group president and CEO Tony Vinciquerra told the conventioneers that the episode in question -- which included scenes of Las Vegas bachelor and bachelorette parties featuring strippers and partiers in sexual situations, including a scene where a pair of strippers "playfully spank" a man in his underwear and another where partygoers lick whipped cream off strippers' bodies -- slipped by the company's standards and practices bureau.

Despite being a "failure of the system," Vinciquerra insisted that the episode "was not actionable" by the FCC.

"It was only a few seconds in an hour show," he said.

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