Behave, or it’ll cost you

That seems to be the message of the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, which with yesterday’s House vote (379-35 in favor) now heads to Bush for his signature. Currently the FCC can levy at most a $32,500 fine for each incident of indecent content; the bill would increase the upper limit to $325,000 per incident. (And any fine gets slapped on each affiliate of a network that aired said content, accounting for the $550,000 owed by CBS stations for the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake “wardrobe malfunction”.)

While the dollar amounts are specific, the definition of indecent is rather nebulous, since the FCC’s definition is unclear and the bill doesn’t seek to clarify it. Nevertheless, Senator Sam Brownback, R-Kans., lauded the act’s passage as “a victory for children and families,” and said the hefty increase was required “in a world saturated with violent and explicit media.” I wonder whether Mr. Brownback will turn his attention to another source of “violent and explicit media” — the cable and satellite networks, which are just a click away and absolutely unaffected by the bill.

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