It’s been almost a year since President Bush signed legislation raising the fines for broadcast indecency to $325,000 per occurrence. Even though the legislation was effective on June 15, 2006, the higher fines have not yet gone into effect as the FCC had never adopted rules to officially implement them – until today. Today, the FCC issued an order adopting a rule to implement the statutory mandate – and the new higher fines will go into effect 30 days after this order is published in the Federal Register, which will presumably be quite soon.
There was no explanation for the Commission’s delay in adopting the new rule. As the change was mandated by statute, the adoption of the new rule did not require public notice and comment. All the Commission needed to do was to put out the Order that was released today. Perhaps the Commission was concerned about the pending Court cases to resolve whether their enforcement of the rules is constitutional (see our comment here). In fact, in opposing the expedited consideration of one of the appeals of a Commission indecency fine, the Commission specifically made the point that there was no need to for prompt consideration as the chilling effect of the Commission policies was limited as the new fines had not yet gone in to effect. But, for whatever reason, the Commission has finally decided to act, and the new fines will soon be effective. Now we just need to watch for the Court decisions to see if the enforcement of those fines will be permitted.