AFTRA Opposes Senate Smut Bill - Broadcasting & Cable

AFTRA Opposes Senate Smut Bill

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Calling the approach draconian and dangerous, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists sent a letter to the Senate Tuesday opposing its indecency bill primarily because it targets performers for radically increased fines.

On the heels of a similar letter to the House last week opposing its indecency bill and performer fines, the union faxed one to the Senate side today complaining about two elements of the Senate version that mirror the House and which it called "particularly egregious assaults on freedom of expression." The first would remove the current performer warning before fines can be assessed. The second raises those fines by almost 50 times (from $11,000 to $500,000).

The Senate letter took longer to craft since AFTRA is not so opposed to at least one of the other provisions, the one that rolls back some media deregulation while the FCC studies any connection between mergers and content.

While the letter does not explicitly support that rollback element, it does contain a graph that raises the group's longstanding concern with deregulation. "With the move away from localism and toward corporate programming created by deregulation, community standards unfortunately no longer enter into the broadcast licensees content debate," wrote AFTRA President John Connolly and National Executive Director Greg Hessinger.

Tom Carpenter, national director of news and broadcasting, for AFTRA, said that while the primary concern is the performer fines, the bill is too sweeping to separate out the most egregious portions from the rest. "It completely redefines the enforcement mechanism and explicitly targets performers," he says, pointing out that under the old rules, no performer had ever been fined although the FCC had the power to do so.

AFTRA represents about 80,000 employees in news, entertainment and sound recording, including Janet Jackson and Bono. Separate incidents involving both helped fuel the rule rewrite.

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