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Radio News: FCC fines TV station $325,000 for news report

Mar 23, 2015 10:11 pm
After the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, and the infamous Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) imposed a $550,000 fine against CBS and its affiliates for airing a woman's breast on the public airwaves in the early evening hours, when children might be watching. On March 23, Michael Malone at Broadcasting and Cable reports, the FCC's Enforcement Bureau, plans to fine the Virginia television station WDJB $325,000, its maximum amount, after it aired "graphic sexual images" from an adult film, during a news story. The report, from the 6 p.m. news July 12, 2012, was about a former adult film star then volunteering with a rescue squad, and was accompanied by images of the volunteer's past roles. The video clip in the news story briefly showed male genitalia and a sexual act being performed, according to the Roanoke Times. "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, FCC Enforcement Bureau chief. But Jeffrey Marks, the Roanoke station's general manager, said in a statement, "We are surprised and disappointed that the FCC has decided to propose to fine WDBJ for a fleeting image on the very edge of some television screens during a news broadcast. The story had gone through a review before it aired. Inclusion of the image was purely unintentional. The picture in question was small and outside the viewing area of the video editing screen. It was visible only on some televisions and for less than three seconds." That sounds like a "fleeting image," sort of like a "fleeting remark." In 2003, U2 singer Bono said, during a televised Golden Globes ceremony, "this is really, really, f------ brilliant." "We have previously found that fleeting and isolated remarks of this nature do not warrant commission action," then FCC Enforcement Bureau chief David Solomon said after calls for a fine in the Bono incident. That decision may have led to another, in 2012, when the Justice Department argued that there was no "fleeting images exemption from indecency enforcement," but the Supreme Court and Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals disagreed, and tossed out the fines against CBS for the brief Super Bowl nudity. So, WDJB might consider appealing this fine too.