WASHINGTON President Bush today signed legislation that increases maximum fines for broadcast indecency to $325,000, 10 times higher than the previous maximum penalty.
"In recent years, broadcast programming has too often pushed the bounds of decency," Bush said at a ceremony attended by members of Congress and Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin.
"We must ensure that decency standards for broadcasters are effectively enforced," Bush said. "That's the duty of the FCC. That's why we've got the chairman standing right here." Bush called the previous maximum penalty of $32,500 "relatively painless" for some broadcasters.
The signing follows more than two years of legislative efforts to respond to broadcast incidents including the baring of Janet Jackson's breast during the Super Bowl telecast on CBS on Feb. 1, 2004.
The new law raises fines while leaving unchanged decency standards. Unsuccessful versions of the legislation had sought to make it easier to fine performers, and to jeopardize licenses held by repeat indecency offenders.
L. Brent Bozell, president of the Parents Television Council, a leading campaigner against coarse broadcasts, said the signing comes as families are "fed up with the sexually raunchy and gratuitously violent content that's broadcast over the public airwaves, particularly during hours when millions of children are in the viewing audience."
National Association of Broadcasters representative Dennis Wharton said the trade group "believes responsible self-regulation is preferable to government regulation.
"If there is to be regulation, it should be applied equally to cable and satellite TV and satellite radio," Wharton said.
The signing comes as networks contest recent fines proposed by the FCC, including a record $3.3 million sanction against the CBS drama Without a Trace.