In the first such action in seven years, the Federal Communications Commission has taken strong action against a local Virginia television station for airing sexual explicit material during a news broadcast.
The FCC says it is fining WDBJ, a CBS affiliate television station in Roanoke, Virginia, $325,000, the maximum allowable penalty, after viewer complaints triggered an investigation by the FCC Enforcement Bureau.
On July 12, 2012 the local station aired a news story about a female porn star who had started volunteering for a local volunteer rescue squad. The report showed a clip of the porn star’s previous work that included explicit images of sex acts forbidden by federal law. Documents provided by the FCC say the station broadcast showed the “manipulation of an erect penis.”
Though the FCC has enforced broadcast decency laws twice in recent years, both times against radio stations, both were settled by consent decree. This is the first case in years in which the full commission has taken an active role.
And this is the complaint of broadcast watchdogs, that the commissioners have largely ignored issues like this in recent years.
Though Patrick Trueman, CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, called it a great day, he complained, “Despite more than 1,000,000 public complaints and two U.S. Supreme Court cases that upheld the decency federal law, the FCC has let foul language, partial nudity, and virtually anything else be broadcast even during what used to be called ‘family hours’ in the early evening.”
Parents Television Council President Tim Winter is even more explicit, charging the FCC with allowing “explicit and disgusting content, including gang rape, child molestation, and a man masturbating a horse.”
The FCC defines broadcast indecency as “language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities.”
The last time such a substantial action was taken was seven years ago after NYPD Blue showed a woman fully naked from behind. Fifty-one ABC affiliates were each fined $27,500 for a total fine of $1,402,500.
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