Skip to main content

FCC Takes Its Time Upping Indecency Fine

Speaking of broadcast indecency … remember the bill that jacked up indecency fines tenfold, to $325,000 per incident? The bill the president signed a year ago with such fanfare? The one the FCC pushed for so breathlessly in its quest for toothier enforcement?

Turns out the commission wasn’t so breathless when it came to updating its own rulebook: As recently as June 3, the FCC still hadn’t changed the maximum per-incident fine at $32,500. It wasn’t until June 4, the day a federal court reversed the commission’s ruling on "fleeting expletives" (see page 1), that the FCC officially published the order implementing the rule change.

(We weren’t the only ones surprised. When we called to alert the bill’s author, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), two of his top staffers admitted that it was news to them.)

So what gives? "This was a procedural matter that was handled in due course," said an FCC spokesman.

The spokesman declined to comment on whether the lag prevented the FCC from levying the higher fine, but one veteran attorney said that the signed law would have trumped any rulebook technicality. "Someone could make the case that the lack of a rule change had confused them," he said, "but it is not a case I would want to take."

And since the rule change doesn’t officially take effect until 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register—usually a good couple weeks after the FCC publishes it in the Digest—there’s still time for brazen broadcasters to go blue before the price jumps!