Lawmakers OK Indecency Bill

Legislation sets highest fines ever.

Federal lawmakers have agreed on a provision that would establish the highest fines ever for broadcasters who violate the Federal Communications Commission standards for indecency. The top fine would be $500,000, almost 20 times the current standard of $27,500.

The new version of the bill, approved by Senate and House conferees, also allows fines to be levied against individuals -- on-air talent such as Howard Stern or entertainers such as Janet Jackson -- whose performances are deemed by the FCC to be profane or otherwise indecent. In addition to establishing higher fines, the new language requires the FCC to adhere to a strict timeline when hearing indecency complaints, requires an annual FCC report to Congress and calls for the National Assn. of Broadcasters to re-establish a family viewing policy.

Struck from the bill was a section requiring the FCC to consider revoking a station's license after three indecency violations.

The provision, negotiated by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., and agreed to Oct. 5 by Senate and House, Energy and Commerce Committee negotiators, is to be attached to the Department of Defense Authorization bill.

The House and Senate had passed different bills to raise fines for indecency violations earlier this year. The conference committee was charged with reconciling the differences in the bills.

The provisions must still be agreed upon by lawmaker conferees reviewing the DOD budget.