The FCC set a new record for a fine for a single violation of its indecency rules – $325,000 for a 3 second visual image of a penis run in a corner of a TV screen a single time on a TV station during its 6 PM news (a full description of the image is in the FCC’s Notice of Apparent Liability but, so as to not trigger too many spam filters, I will omit any more details in this article). The image in the newscast was a visual of a website, the website having several different frames, each with video images, and one of those frames had the image that led to the fine. This is the first time that the FCC has imposed a fine of $325,000, an amount authorized by Congress during the FCC’s last crackdown on indecency but never before used by the FCC. And not only did the FCC issue the Notice of Apparent Liability describing its legal reasoning for imposing the fine, but they also put out a press release publicizing the Notice, highlighting other recent indecency actions taken by the FCC, and warning broadcasters to pay attention to the decision. What happened here?
According to the FCC’s order, a TV station did a story on a former adult movie star who had retired from her former profession and begun to work with the local rescue squad. In providing background to what might otherwise be an off-beat human interest story about a person with a colorful past adapting to a new life as part of a local community, to provide context, the station showed the website of the adult movie company for which she had formerly worked. In editing the brief clip of the website into the story, neither the independent producer who put the story together nor anyone at the station noted the visual in one corner of the webpage with the image that got the station into trouble. According to the station, the image was not viewable on the editing machines used by those producing the story. But, apparently viewers at home, perhaps watching on bigger screens, were able to see the image, prompting the FCC complaint and other complaints to the station. While the image appeared on screen for only about 3 seconds, and only once, the FCC nevertheless selected this case to be its first in which to levy this new level of indecency fine – ten times higher than previous fines for a single broadcast of indecent material on a single station. Why?
Continue Reading FCC Proposes Fine of $325,000 in TV Indecency Case – What Prompted this Largest Fine Ever for a Single Incident?