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in Filmmaking
on May 21, 2006

Below I posted about the new fines for “indecency” being levied by the FCC against broadcasters for “unnecessary” content. In today’s Variety, William Triplett reports on a related story: the Senate’s passing of a bill that will increase indecency fines for broadcasters by a multiple of ten, to $325,000 per infraction.

The bill was jammed through the Senate by assumed presidential candidate and Majority Leader Bill Frist, who engaged in the rare parliamentary practice of “hotlining” the bill, quickly pulling the bill from committee review and putting it before the Senate for objection. If no Senator objects, the bill passes without a formal vote. That’s what happened, and now the bill, sponsored by Senator Sam Brownback, must be reconciled with a competing House version which, actually, is even worse as it also provides for the revoking of broadcast licenses and the penalization of performers.

Of course, this is all happening in the run-up to the ’06 elections, but Triplett makes a very smart connection at the end of his piece to the FCC’s release, also this week, of its “indecency complaint” statistics, which seemingly skyrocketed in February:

Separately on Friday, the FCC released the total number of indecency complaints it received in the first quarter of this year. The agency logged 141,868 complaints January through March, more than three times the number logged in fourth quarter of 2005, when 44,109 came in.

However, the vast majority of 2006 complaints came in during the month of February, which accounted for more than 138,500 complaints. January saw only 1,740, March 1,602. The February complaints involved an episode of NBC’s Las Vegas airing that month (Daily Variety, March 14), and the majority were generated by a social conservative group’s email campaign to members urging them to complain.

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