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Friday June 16, 2006

Bush signs law increasing fines for indecent broadcasts


WASHINGTON (AP): President George W. Bush has signed legislation that will cost broadcasters dearly when raunchy programming exceeds "the bounds of decency.'' 

Approval of the bill culminates a two-year effort to get tough on sexually explicit material and offensive language on American radio and television following singer Janet Jackson's 2004 football Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction.'' 

For raunchy talk or a racy show of skin, the Federal Communications Commission can now fine a broadcaster up to $325,000 (euro258,000) per incident _ a tenfold increase of the maximum fine. 

At Thursday's signing ceremony for the new law, Bush said that it will force industry figures to "take seriously their duty to keep the public airwaves free of obscene, profane and indecent material.'' 

The FCC recently denied a petition of reconsideration from CBS Corp.-owned stations facing $550,000 (euro436,000) in fines over the Jackson incident, in which she briefly revealed a breast during a halftime concert. 

The agency recently handed down its biggest fine, $3.3 million (euro2.6 million), against more than 100 CBS affiliates that aired an episode of the series "Without a Trace'' that simulated an orgy scene. That fine is now under review. 

The FCC has received increasing complaints about lewd material over the airwaves, and has responded with fines jumping from $440,000 (euro349,000) in 2003 to almost $8 million (euro6.3 million) in 2004. 

"The problem we have is that the maximum penalty that the FCC can impose under current law is just $32,500 (euro25,700) per violation,'' Bush said. "And for some broadcasters, this amount is meaningless.  

It's relatively painless for them when they violate decency standards.'' 

The bill does not apply to cable or satellite broadcasts, and does not try to define what is indecent. The FCC says indecent material is that which contains sexual or excretory material that does not rise to the level of obscenity.

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