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« on: June 16, 2006, 12:05:45 AM »

Bush's Pen Strengthens FCC's Teeth in Enforcing Decency

by Jody Brown
June 15, 2006

(AgapePress) - - Saying both parents and the broadcast industry play valuable roles in protecting the nation's children from indecent content on television and radio broadcasts, President Bush has signed into law a bill substantially increasing the fines that can be levied against broadcasters to violate established standards of decency.

Moments before putting his signature to the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act (S. 193), the president alluded to a struggle that parents contend with constantly. "Every day our nation's parents strive to raise their children in a culture that too often produces coarse, vulgar, and obscene entertainment," Bush said at the Thursday morning (June 15) signing ceremony attended by members of Congress, commissioners from the FCC, and representatives of several pro-family and faith-based groups. "[P]arents have the final responsibility over the television shows that their children watch, or the websites they visit, or the music they listen to."

But while parents are the "first line of defense" in that battle, said the president, the entertainment industry must shoulder some of the responsibility as well. "roadcasters and the electronics industry must play a valuable role in protecting our children from obscene and indecent programming," the Chief Executive stated.

And for that reason, he continued, existing decency standards for broadcasters must be effectively enforced -- a job he noted is that of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). And with that he signed the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, which increases by ten times the financial penalty that the FCC can impose on broadcasters that violate those standards -- from $32,500 per offense to $325,000. In the words of one congressional co-sponsor, Representative Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, the Act provides "real accountability for those who choose to violate the law."

Applause from the Pro-Family Sector
The measure, sponsored by Congressman Fred Upton of Michigan and Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, had been backed and actively promoted by numerous pro-family groups, many of which were represented at the signing. All are calling enactment of the bill a great victory for American families, and a step in the right direction toward holding broadcasters accountable for what they put on the airwaves.

Lanier Swann with Concerned Women for America says the increase in fines is putting the industry on notice that Americans are "taking back their airwaves" and "demanding clean, wholesome entertainment."

"Up until now, broadcasting fines have been a drop in the bucket for millionaire broadcast corporations," says Swann. "Hopefully, a steep hike in fines will cause them to think twice before televising flagrant filth."

And while the CWA spokeswoman envisions that TV watchers should soon be less likely to stumble across profane language and offensive material as they change channels, her group's president acknowledges the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act is not a cure-all.

"Irresponsible broadcasters may still push the envelope, excuse vulgarity as 'fleeting,' and blame parents if kids are exposed to obscenity," says Wendy Wright. "But now everyone knows who is really to blame -- and there's a means to hold them accountable." As Wright points out, the new law is designed to get to broadcasters where it counts -- in the pocketbook.

Likewise, the president of the Parents Television Council (PTC) is hopeful the increased fines will have the desired effect. America's families, says L. Brent Bozell, are "fed up with the sexually raunchy and gratuitously violent content" being aired by the nation's broadcasters -- particularly during the so-called "family hour" in the evening, when children are more likely to be among the viewing audience.

"The FCC will now have the authority to impose meaningful, punitive fines when the indecency law is broken," says Bozell. "We hope that the hefty fines will cause the multi-billion dollar broadcast networks finally to take the law seriously."

The signing of the bill caps off a two-and-a-half year effort by Congressman Fred Upton to increase the financial penalties against violators of broadcast decency standards. Upton introduced the House version of the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act on January 21, 2004. Less than two weeks later, the infamous "wardrobe malfunction" occurred during the halftime performance at the 2004 Super Bowl -- an incident that seemed to light a fire under the grassroots support for a tighter rein on broadcasters.


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