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Powell, Upton Call for Increased Indecency Fines

If Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell and a key lawmaker get their way, broadcasters could face dramatically higher penalties-10 times greater than today, in fact-for airing indecent programming when kids are likely to be in the audience.

Powell told the National Press Club Wednesday that he wants Congress to increase the maximum fine per violation from $27,500 to as much as $275,000.

Later in the day, House Telecommunications Subcommittee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said he would like to grant that wish and announced plans to sponsor legislation that would "substantially increase" financial penalties the FCC may levy on broadcasters for violating restrictions on indecency and obscenity.

"It is well past the time that we clean up our airwaves," said Upton. "I am confident that when broadcasters take a bigger hit in their wallets, they may think twice about indecency on the airwaves." Upton said he would introduce the legislation next week.

Powell has been increasingly under fire from family values groups for his Enforcement Bureau’s decision not to fine NBC stations that aired rock star Bono’s repeated use of the f-word during an awards show last year. Powell is said to be pushing his fellow commissioners to reverse that decision when they tackle an appeal from the Parent Television Council.

Upton will hold a hearing on indecency enforcement Jan. 28.