Upton Preps Bill Boosting FTC Fine Authority


Videogame companies could face the same kind of hefty fines for their suggestive content that broadcasters now face for theirs.

House Telecommunications Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) told B&C Wednesday he is preparing a bill to give the Federal Trade Commission greater authority to fine video game manufacturers.

That move was triggered by a hearing earlier Wednesday on violent videogames in which he vented his anger at an FTC settlement with the creator of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas that he said "wasn't even a slap on the wrist."

Upton said at the hearing that he thought the company should have faced millions of fines--for a sexual mini-game secretly imbedded in the game. (It did incur over $24 million in costs to recall and rerate the game, the FTC had pointed out in its consent decree).

When an FTC representative at the hearing said she shared Upton's concerns but that the commission did not have the authority, Upton was prompted to act. "I am going to be looking to write legislation giving the FTC the authority to impose civil penalties," he said. "I didn't know that they didn't have the authority. I have made a lot of phone calls--it's like the show Car 54, Where Are You?: FTC, where are you?--and  I haven't heard that excuse until today."

The White House this week is signing a bill, first proposed by Upton, that boosts indecency fines on broadcasters to a maximum of $325,000 per day.