Indecency Enforcement Actions Confirmed

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The FCC'se enforcement bureau officially confirmed Friday that it has initiated enforcement actions on complaints about indecency and profanity.

Last year, for the first time in recorded memory--since at least the FCC began keeping the records in the early 1990's--the FCC proposed no indecency fines against broadcasters, a point made by National Association of Broadcasters Joint Board Chairman Bruce Reese at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on indecency Thursday.

A batch of TV fines and complaint dismissals have been in the works for several months, with a radio batch to follow.

One reason that no actions were taken last year is that a lot of the complaints went away.

A number of major media companies--including Viacom, Clear Channel, and Emmis Communications--had already settled a host of both proposed fines and outstanding complaints through consent decrees with both dollars and pledges to crack down on content the FCC doesn't like.
Last November, for example, Viacom settled all its outstanding complaints, except Janet Jackson, for $3.5 million.
Still, 189,362 complaints were filed in 2005, more than in any year except 2004, when the Super Bowl pushed that number to over a million. And the 2005 complaints were against 720 broadcast and cable programs, according to the FCC's last published count, which is more than twice the number of shows complained about in 2004.

Only 84 of those 2005 complaints were against cable shows, but that is still more than double the previous high of  38 drawing complaints in 2002. Those cable complaints will wind up in the dismissed pile, however, since the FCC lacks the authority to regulate cable indecency, though there are some in Congress who want to find a way to give it that power. 

Most of the complaints came from the Parent's Television Council. At the Thursday Senate Hearing, PTC President Brent Bozell was dismissive of Viacom's settlement, of the complaints, saying that only weeks after the deal, CBS aired one of the episodes PTC had complained about.

The package of TV propsed fines and denials is said to be a mix of denials and proposed fines that, taken together and signed off on by the commissioners, are meant to be a better guide to what the FCC thinks is indecent, though it will lack the guidance that the Bono and Jackson reviews would provide.

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