FCC Levies Fine For ‘Indecent’ TV Ad

Advertising lobby groups were up in arms last week after the Federal Communications Commission fined a Puerto Rican TV station for a video clip promoting a reggae CD that it deemed “indecent”—the first time in memory the FCC has fined a station for a promo. The lobbyists say this could set a precedent for increased scrutiny of all ads.

“As the FCC ratchets up its scrutiny of indecency and increases the fines, the pressure on the broadcast clearance process becomes more intense as well,” said Dan Jaffe, evp of government relations for the Association of National Advertisers.

ABC declined comment. CBS, NBC and Fox did not return calls.

Some observers were less alarmed. One executive at a large ad shop noted that the network standards are already very strict, and because most of the work submitted by large agencies goes through the networks anyway, it won’t result in any chilling effect on creative.

WSJU-TV, owned by Aerco Broadcasting Corp., was fined $220,000 for airing the ad and other indecent programming, according to the FCC’s decision last Wednesday. The promotional clip featured “scantily clad women fondling themselves and each other in a sexual fashion,” the FCC said in its decision.

If some commissioners have their way, such fines may soon be imposed for not just sexual content, but violence. “Even though the Commission’s authority is limited … to indecent, profane and obscene content, and thus does not extend to violent matter, the use of violence as the ‘punch line’ of titillating sexual innuendo should not insulate broadcast licensees from our authority,” said FCC Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate.