The U.S. House of Representatives that many call the most corrupt and scandal-ridden in modern history plans to vote next week on whether to adopt a Senate plan to increase fines to $325,000 on television and radio broadcast stations that violate decency standards.
Parents groups and some lawmakers have pressed for two years for higher fines to discourage broadcasters from raising the level of sexually provocative content or profanity.
The call for bigger fines came after pop singer Janet Jackson’s breast was briefly flashed during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime entertainment show. Twenty CBS stations were fined a total of $550,000 for that incident.
The House plans to begin debating the Senate measure on Tuesday and vote on Wednesday, said Kevin Madden, spokesman for House Majority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican.
The Senate approach would increase fines tenfold from the current level of $32,500 per violation. The House last year passed a stiffer measure that would boost fines to $500,000 per incident and would require communications regulators to consider revoking a station’s license after three violations.
However, with relatively few congressional work days left before the November elections, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Rep. Joe Barton recently said he was willing to accept the Senate version of the decency measure.
Some conservative groups also have pressed the House to adopt the Senate version of the bill.
Federal regulations bar obscene material from being aired and limit broadcast television and radio stations from showing indecent material, like sexually explicit scenes or profanity. Indecent content is only allowed between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. when children are less likely to be watching or listening.
The House version also would make it easier for the Federal Communications Commission, which enforces the decency standards, to fine individuals who violate the regulations.
Typically, when the Senate and House have different versions of legislation, a negotiating committee is created to reconcile the bills, which can be time-consuming. The alternative is for one chamber to consider passing the other’s legislation.
Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters, said, “In issues related to programming content, NAB believes responsible self-regulation is preferable to government regulation.”