FCC Proposes Mandatory Program Logging

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In a move aimed at further bolstering enforcement of anti-indecency rules, the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday proposed to require broadcasters to keep recordings of all of their broadcasts for up to 90 days.

The requirement is under consideration because listeners often are driving or are otherwise unable to record or transcribe when they hear or watch broadcasts they believe violate government indecency rules. It has historically been incumbent upon listeners or viewers to submit the evidence.

The proposal stems from an FCC decision to increase the size of punishments for indecency by fining each indecent “utterance” within a single program as a separate violation. The FCC has also threatened to begin revoking licenses from repeat and egregious offenders and has begun to look harder at TV as well as radio.

When it comes to keeping recordings, the FCC is asking for public comment on the appropriate length of time they should be retained. (It suggested either 60 or 90 days.)

The FCC also wants input on the likely cost to stations and whether the plan raises any First Amendment issues.

The commission also asked for comment on whether recordings should be required only between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., when indecent broadcasts are prohibited, or for all 24-hours of the day.

The FCC suggested that the recordings could also be used to monitor compliance with the limits on advertising during children’s TV programs and sponsorship identification requirements.

Commissioner Michael Copps, who has been calling for a recording requirement for years, praised the plan. The FCC, he said, "has for too long place inordinate responsibility upon the complaining citizen" by requiring at least a detailed description of the broadcast.

Separate from the FCC's efforts, legislation pending in Congress would jack up the maximum fine for a single indecency violation from $27,500 to as high as $1 million.

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