FCC Reiterates Tougher Smut Rules

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Somewhat lost in the Federal Communications Commission indecency fines either expunged or denied was a new proposed fine against Beasley Broadcast Group Inc.'s WQAM(AM) Miami. In that proposal, the FCC took pains to reiterate its toughened indecency standards for radio and TV.

The proposed $55,000 fine was for a Sept. 9, 2003, broadcast of the Scott Ferrall Show. The broadcast included an exchange with a caller that featured the sexually suggestive phrases "stuff this package in her mouth" and "do her daily," as well as a reference to child molestation.

Beasley argued that the broadcast "makes use of 'innuendo and double entendre' that would not have an 'inescapable and understandable sexual or excretory import' to children, and cannot therefore give rise to a finding of indecency." The FCC disagreed, saying they "clearly relay sexual images that are patently offensive."

Beasley also argued the exerpts were short and out of context and that they did not violate the community standards of Miami. The FCC countered that they were long enough, were clearly intended to pander and titillate, and that they did violate a "reaonsable person" standard.

The $55,000 was the maximum $27,500 applied to two separate incidences within the broadcast.

The FCC took pains to point to its tougher new rules, saying "We reiterate our recent statement that multiple serious violations of our indecency rule by broadcasters may well lead to license revocation proceedings. We also remind broadcasters that separate utterances within a single broadcast may be considered separate violations for purposes of determining forfeitures under our indecency rules."

It may have needed to reiterate that because its previous statement of those new policies came in a proposed fine against a Howard Stern broadcast that was expunged in last week's $3.5 million deal with Viacom.

In the consent decree, the FCC took pains too carve out the warnings, saying "[T]his Consent Decree shall not affect the general warnings to broadcasters set forth at paragraphs 12 and 13 of that NAL, which warnings shall remain in effect." Those were the heads-up that multiple "indecencies" in a single broadcast could be fined independently, and that license revocation was on the table for repeat violations."

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