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Upton Plans Thursday Vote on Indecency Fines

The House Telecommunications Subcommittee is scheduled to vote Thursday, Feb. 12, on chairman Fred Upton’s (R-Mich.) bill to raise fines for broadcast indecency.

His bill would increase the sanction ten-fold to $275,000 per station for each violation and cap a multiple station group’s liability at $3 million per violation. The bill also would codify the FCC’s new policy stipulating that each indecent utterance during a program constitutes a separate violation liable for a new fine.

The vote could be cancelled if House leaders decide too few lawmakers will be in attendance. Given 2004 is a campaign year, many members want to return to their districts to campaign on Thursday.

Upton told Broadcasting & Cable last week he hopes Congress will send the bill to the President’s desk by the end of March. His committee will hold a hearing on the bill Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. FCC commissioners and network executives are expected to testify. The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the same topic with virtually the same witnesses at the same time on the other side of Capitol Hill.

The urgency over indecency on the airwaves was ignited by Janet Jackson’s breast baring during the Super Bowl halftime show. Friday, the FCC said it had received more than 200,000 complaints about the broadcast.