The FCC has levied its maximum penalty for indecency over a three-second video clip in a news story, aired by WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Virginia. The fine was announced today, penalizing the station for a July 12, 2012 newscast, which apparently aired what the agency termed, "extremely graphic and explicit sexual content." The story centered on a former adult film actress who had applied to work on a volunteer EMT rescue squad, and included a still photo taken from an adult website.
RTDNA objects to the FCC's decision to assess the maximum fine, for a fleeting and inadvertent image in the news story.
"The FCC’s Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture against WDBJ-TV, Roanoke, VA for $325,000 is a classic example of government regulation gone wild," said Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director in a statement. "To impose such a burdensome fine on a station with a 60-year history of dedicated community service, is both overly punitive and ignores common sense and fairness.”
The National Association of Broadcasters weighed in with a similar statement Monday, saying in part, "this unprecedented fine against a family-owned broadcaster with a demonstrated commitment to serving communities is wholly unwarranted."
Schurz Communications, the station's owner, has vowed to appeal the fine. WDBJ General Manager Jeffery Marks said in a statement, “The enormous fine proposed by the FCC is also an extraordinary burden on protected speech. The FCC’s largest base fine for other types of violations by broadcasters is $10,000. That is the fine for a misrepresentation to the FCC. A transfer of a license without authorization has a fine of only $8,000; use of a station to commit fraud results in a fine of $5,000; broadcast of an illegal lottery costs a station $4,000. As the FCC admits, its base forfeiture for a violation of the indecency rules is $7,000. This unprecedented proposed fine is more than 46 times higher than the FCC’s own determination of the punishment for indecent speech.”