The FCC, without elaboration, has vacated over a quarter of a million dollars in proposed indecency fines against a number of Indiana and Tennessee stations.
In Indiana, the stations, which had aired CBS' Without a Trace, including a scene of teen-sex party, were ones that aired the broadcast at 10 p.m., when indecency broadcasts are protected, rather than the 9 p.m. airing in the Central and Mountain zones, where the broadcast could be fined (the indecency "safe harbor is 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.).
The mix-up was that while some Indiana stations make the switch to Daylight Saving Time, the majority don't, which means the majority were airing it after 10 p.m. That will change, though, since the state has passed a law to regularize the observance starting this weekend.
The Tennessee stations are all in the Eastern time zone, so they appeared to have simply been inadvertently included in the 111 stations fined for the program.
The stations now off the hook are WTHI Terre Haute, Ind.; WANE Fort Wayne, Ind.; WISH Indianapolis; WLFI Lafayette, Ind.; WSBT South Bend, Ind.; WVLT Knoxville, Tenn.; WDEF Chattanooga, Tenn.; and WJHL Johnson City, Tenn.
Each had faced a proposed fine of $32,500, so that knocks $260,000 off the slightly over $3.6 million fine total for the broadcast on CBS affiliates.
The FCC process makes room for such appeals, announcing the proposed fine but giving the stations an opportunity to explain why they should not be fined. Stations can also appeal a fine once the FCC has officially levied it.