The FCC's Enforcement Bureau has taken an indecency enforcement action against Liberman Broadcasting, though it was a voluntary settlement of complaints rather than a proposed fine or indecency finding.
As part of a consent decree, Liberman Broadcasting will pay $110,000 to settle indecency complaints including from GLAAD and the National Hispanic Media Coalition. The settlement clears the way for any license renewals since the FCC concluded that its investigation, which is now closed, "raises no substantial or material questions of fact as to whether LBI possesses the basic qualifications, including those related to character, to hold or obtain any Commission license or authorization."
The complaint involved the Spanish-language television show Jose Luis Sin Censura (Jose Luis Uncensored), which Liberman took off the air in 2012 and included allegations that the show featured porn stars and exotic dancers who engaged in behavior "inconsistent with the Commission’s indecency standards for broadcast programming that is aired during the day and early evening."
A veteran Frist Amendment attorney speaking on background said he did not think the settlement signaled anything about the direction new chairman Tom Wheeler would take indecency enforcement, pointing out that the investigation and settlement had been in the works for some time--Wheeler is only in his second week on the job.
He also said that there is a large undercurrent of tolling agreements the FCC is seeking from stations to allow it to continue investigating some indecency complaints past the statute of limitations. The FCC has been working through a backlog of what at one time almost 1.5 million indecency complaints, held up while its authority was being vetted by various courts.
The FCC says Liberman cooperated fully with the investigation and also committed to a three-year compliance plan, that includes "the appointment of a compliance officer; the establishment of operating procedures to ensure compliance; the creation of a compliance manual; annual employee training; and compliance reporting, including self-reporting of possible violations in the future."
The FCC has been pursuing a policy of only going after egregious complaints, but it has not proposed an indecency fine against a broadcaster for several years and still has not since it was a voluntary settlement.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), with some help from the National Hispanic Media Coalition back in 2011 filed an indecency complaint against Spanish-language KRCA Los Angeles and licensee/program distributor Liberman Broadasting over broadcasts of the daytime Spanish-language talk show. (http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/464485-GLAAD_NHMC_Launching_Ind...)
The complaint alleged the show was obscene, indecent and profane, and provided transcripts and photos to illustrate the allegations.
Streamed video clips allegedly from the show supplied by GLAAD feature pixilated nudity and a mix of bleeped and un-bleeped cursing and anti-gay slurs as well as violent outbursts from angry audience members.
"For years Liberman has ignored concerns from viewers as well as revenue loss from advertisers pulling spots," said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios at the time. "This material is some of the most violent and offensive on television today and the FCC should hold the broadcaster responsible for airing material which is putting gay and lesbian people in harm's way."
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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