Senate Passes Bill To Raise Indecency Fines

Legislation increases penalties tenfold.

The Senate voted 99-1 today to include an amendment in a massive Pentagon funding bill that would raise the fines for indecent broadcasting tenfold to $275,000 per incident.

The Senate also unanimously approved a separate amendment that would put on hold the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) media ownership deregulation until a study about the effects of media consolidation is completed next year.

Senate lawmakers also approved amendments that would extend the FCC's indecency prohibitions to violent TV programming and require the agency to consider the size of a station when levying indecency fines.

Not included in the revised anti-indecency measure, introduced by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., was a provision that would fine performers up to $500,000 for indecent broadcasts that was added to the original bill in Feburary. The bill was passed in the House; differences between the two must still be worked out.

National Assn. of Broadcasters president/CEO Eddie Fritts issued a statement saying the NAB does not support the amendment. "We continue to believe that voluntary industry initiatives that have been taken by a number of broadcasters thus far are far preferable to government regulation when dealing with programming issues," he says. "We also believe that most Americans would acknowledge that broadcast programming is considerably less explicit in terms of violence and sexual content than that which is routinely found on cable and satellite channels."