US Senate Ups the Cost of Broadcast 'Indecency'

11 March 2004

The Commerce Committee of the US Senate on Tuesday sent "a powerful signal to [Congressional] leadership and the [media] industry that we're going to move a bill."

Thus quoth Senator Sam Brownback (Republican, Kansas), the signal in question being a bipartisan motion sponsored by Brownback and passed by twenty-four votes to nil in favor of increasing the penalties for broadcast indecency.

It would also impose further restrictions on televised violence. More significant yet for the media industry: the bill would temporarily block the deregulation of ownership.

The Senate vote mirrors last week's move in the House of Representatives, where the Commerce Committee voted 49-1 for its version of anti-indecency legislation [WAMN: 05-Mar-04].

This would impose fines of up to $500,000 per violation (the current limit is $27,500), with no cumulative ceiling on the sum levied for a single program aired via multiple networks or stations. The full House is expected to pass that version soon.

The Senate variant is less draconian, levying fines of up to $500,000 but capping the total at $3 million for a multiple airing. Aggravating circumstances would double those levels and repeated violations might result in the loss of broadcasters' licenses.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff