It's been eight years since the Federal Communications Commission fined a television station for indecency violations, but today it made up for the haitus with the highest fine ever for a single broadcast.
The commission said it intends to fine WDBJ Television,
Roanoke, Va., $325,000 -- the maximum allowed -- for broadcasting graphic and sexually explicit material during the station's evening newscast.
The FCC said it had investigated viewer complaints that WDBJ aired a news report that included graphic sexual images taken from an adult film website in the report.
The commission's Enforcement Bureau said WDBJ had aired a news story about a former adult film star who had joined a local volunteer rescue squad. The investigation found that station staff
obtained a sexually explicit video clip from an adult film website and broadcast them in the 6 p.m. news report on July 12, 2012.
"Our action here sends a clear signal that there are severe consequences for TV stations that air sexually explicit images when children are likely to be watching," said Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau.
The action was long overdue, in the view of decency advocates.
“The FCC is the guardian of broadcast decency and it must enforce the law. We praise FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler for initiating this enforcement action and for the message it will send to broadcasters everywhere,” stated Dawn Hawkins, Executive Director of National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE).
It is a violation of federal law to air indecent programming from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., when there is reasonable risk that children may be in the audience. The FCC has defined 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.
While this was the first action against a TV station in eight years, the commission has fined two radio stations for broadcasting vulgar language in recent years.
Hawkins said both broadcasters and the commission have "ignored the law for years."
“Indecency on TV sexualizes our children and prepares them to become participants in the pornified world that awaits them," she said.