In the FCC’s first indecency rulings since Kevin Martin became chairman a year ago, yesterday the agency levied fines totaling more than $3 million against 101 CBS stations for an episode of the show Without a Trace that aired Dec. 31, 2004.
In the “Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture,” the commissioners wrote, “The gravity of the apparent violation is heightened in this case because … the material graphically depicts teenage boys and girls participating in a sexual orgy. While there is no nudity, the scene is highly sexually charged and explicit. Moreover, the material is particularly egregious because it focuses on sex among children. In addition, the program is prerecorded, and CBS and its affiliates could have edited or declined the content prior to broadcast.”
In another blow to CBS, the Commission also affirmed its finding that indecency laws were violated and upheld $550,000 in fines against 20 CBS-owned stations for the half-time display of Jackson’s breast during the Super Bowl broadcast on CBS in February of 2004. The Eye network had asked that the decision be reconsidered on the grounds that pulling off a portion of Janet Jackson’s bustier to reveal her breast was not indecent, and that they weren’t legally responsible for the halftime show anyway, which was produced by MTV. The Commission held that CBS “consciously and willfully failed to take actions to prevent the broadcast of the material, and that CBS is responsible for the halftime show.”
These decisions were among a batch released resolving over 300,000 consumer complaints about the broadcast of indecent, profane, and/or obscene television programming against 49 television programs aired between February 2002 and March 2005.
Among the rulings was an indecency holding against NBC Telemundo for the October, 2004, 8:15 PM broadcast of the Spanish-language movie, Con El Corazon En La Mano for a scene which “depicts a man raping a woman in a public restroom while another man stands nearby, acting as a lookout.”
Martin said, “These decisions, taken both individually and as a whole, demonstrate the Commission’s continued commitment to enforcing the law prohibiting the airing of obscene, indecent and profane material.”