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Janet Jackson incident could cost stations $550,000 in fines

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Federal Communications Commission staff has recommended that commissioners fine 20 CBS stations owned by Viacom Inc. $27,500 each for a total of $550,000 in response to Janet Jackson’s exposure at the Super Bowl in front of 90 television million viewers.

News of the proposal was obtained from an unnamed source close to the case, according to the Associated Press June 30.

The staff did not recommend fining the 227 other CBS affiliates that aired the Super Bowl but are not owned by Viacom.

FCC commissioners must now decide whether to accept the recommendation to impose the maximum indecency penalty on the 20 stations, and the decision is expected in the next few weeks, AP reported.

The Parents Television Council, on its website, said the FCC should take action against other parts of the halftime show — such as some dance moves and language — to put all affiliate stations on notice for the future.

“Down the road, especially when it’s something that would give affiliates caution, like some form of entertainment or taped programming, they should be held accountable,” said Lara Mahaney, a spokesperson for the organization.

The latest recommendation follows a recent crackdown on broadcast indecency brought on by more than 500,000 complaints to the FCC about the Super Bowl halftime show.

On June 22, the Senate voted 99-1 in favor of a proposal to increase the maximum penalty the FCC may issue for a decency violation on television and radio. The measure would increase the maximum fine from $27,500 to $275,000 when the FCC determines a broadcaster is guilty of “obscene, indecent or profane language.” The legislation also would set a limit of $3 million for a single violation that continues or produces multiple complaints.

In March, the House voted 391-22 for a stand-alone bill, the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, H.R. 3717. That measure differs from the Senate version. The House proposal would increase the maximum FCC fine to $500,000. The measure also would call for FCC license revocation proceedings after three violations by a radio or television station.

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