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Radio, TV indecency fines may yet rise

Lawmakers launch new bid day after abandoning effort

WASHINGTON — In a short-lived victory for broadcasters, lawmakers Friday launched a new bid to sharply boost indecency fines for radio and TV stations one day after a similar effort was abandoned.

On Thursday, a provision in a defense bill that would have raised the maximum fine against broadcasters to $500,000 was killed as Senate and House negotiators were trying to fashion a compromise from two bills that had passed both chambers, said Brian Hart, a spokesman for Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., who has been a driving force to raise indecency fines.

But lawmakers, including Brownback, quickly regrouped: On Friday a new stand-alone bill was introduced to raise maximum indecency fines to $500,000.

The current maximum fine that can be levied against broadcasters by the Federal Communications Commission is $32,500 per incident.

Public concern over indecency in the media reached a new high in February when singer Janet Jackson bared her breast during the Super Bowl halftime show aired by Viacom Inc.'s CBS stations.

The FCC, which regulates broadcast networks, this month imposed a record $550,000 fine on CBS-owned stations for airing the stunt.

The FCC, which has issued more than $4 million in indecency fines since 1990, has intensified its scrutiny of broadcasters as lawmakers have pressed for stricter rules.