Posted Mar 23rd, 2015 05:30 PM by Mark Kernes
JESUSLAND—In its latest fund-raising effort, Morality in Media the National Center on Sexual Exploitation is rejoicing over the fact that the FCC has proposed fining TV station WDBJ-7 the maximum allowable—$325,000—for inadvertently airing roughly three seconds of a porn scene during a 6 p.m. newscast on July 12, 2012, during a news story about an ex-porn star turned firefighter.
"The FCC issued its first enforcement action on indecency in eight years," MiM NCSE claimed on its website. "The FCC unanimously voted to enforce the law against television station WDBJ, Roanoke Virginia (parent company Schurz Communications) regarding a July 12, 2012, 6 pm broadcast news clip that featured a porn video clip."
Of course, the censorship moguls at MiM NCSE got even that wrong: Anyone who read what the FCC actually said about the situation in their press release probably would have noticed its penultimate paragraph: "This is the third action the Enforcement Bureau has taken regarding the broadcast of indecent material since January 2014. In April 2014, the Enforcement Bureau settled its investigation into allegations of the broadcast of vulgar language on radio station KRXA (AM), which resulted in a payment of $15,000. In August 2014, Border Media Business Trust paid $37,500 in penalties to settle an investigation into the use of indecent sexual language during a morning show on radio station KDBR (FM)." [Emphasis added]
But facts and details have never been something MiM NCSE has ever worried about.
"Today, for the first time in more than 8 years, The Federal Communications Commission began enforcing the federal law that prohibits profanity and indecency on broadcast TV," began MiM's NCSE's fund-raising email, adding later, "Indecency on TV sexualizes our children and prepares them to become participants in the pornified world that awaits them. This is exactly why the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE), formerly Morality in Media (MIM), has been a leader in the matter of TV indecency for more than 50 years." ("Leader in the matter of TV indecency"? Awright!)
Of course, what actually happened at WDBJ—gotta love those last two letters!—isn't likely to offend anyone other than the most rabid bluenoses. Here's what the FCC's "Notice of Apparent Liability For Forfeiture" says about the situation:
"4. The materials submitted by WDBJ confirm that it broadcast a naked, erect penis and sexual manipulation thereof during an early evening news broadcast. Specifically, WDBJ submits a recording and transcript of the report at issue in the Complaints, which it acknowledges aired on its evening news, 'WDBJ7 at Six' on July 12, 2012, at approximately 6:00 p.m. The Station anchor introduces the report as the Station’s 'top story [concerning] an ex-porn star' volunteer for the local rescue squad. The news report is approximately three minutes and 20 seconds in length. The recording submitted by WDBJ shows that the broadcast included images of the former adult film star. The first image is video in which only her face and shoulders can be seen. In the video, she has her finger in her mouth, moving it up and down on her tongue, with her lips partially open and then closing as she appears to suck on her finger. Just before this image appears, a reporter states: '[t]he Cave Spring rescue squad has been around for more than 60 years. In that time, it's probably never had a volunteer like [the woman].' At the time that the image is displayed, a reporter goes on to state: '[s]he’s a former porn star.' The Licensee obtained the video image online from the website of a distributor of the woman’s adult films. The website, which was partially displayed along with the video image, is bordered on the right side by boxes showing video clips from other films that do not appear to show the woman who is the subject of the news report.
"5. One of these video clips, displayed in a box, contains the image of sexual activity involving manipulation of an erect penis. Although the box does not show the entire body or face of the apparently nude male depicted, the image shows a hand moving up and down the length of the shaft of the erect penis. WDBJ asserts that this image was displayed for less than three seconds. There are also other images of the woman who is the subject of the story displayed at various times during the report, including one in which she appears to be sitting on a bed, wearing a bra." [Emphasis added]
The Notice goes on to recount what WDBJ said about the image, which is that it wasn't even visible on the station's in-house monitors and was therefore aired inadvertently, but the FCC either chose not to believe them, or decided that even an inadvertently broadcast image was worth a third of a million dollar fine.
"We are surprised and disappointed that the FCC has decided to propose to fine WDBJ-7 for a fleeting image on the very edge of some television screens during a news broadcast," said WDBJ-7 president and general manager Jeffrey A. Marks. "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...
"The enormous fine proposed by the FCC is also an extraordinary burden on protected speech," Marks continued. "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."
Marks also said the station will appeal the proposed fine.
But the genesis of the FCC's action may go back to incoming FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's statement to the U.S. Senate Communications Committee in a hearing in June of 2013, where Variety reported Wheeler telling the committee that, "The FCC is the midst of reviewing whether it should revise how it deals with complaints over indecency on broadcast television, with [outgoing chairman Julius] Genachowski’s proposal to look at only 'egregious' cases."
Moreover, in the religio-conservative Parents Television Council's February 2015 newsletter, in an article titled, "FCC Should ENFORCE THE LAW!", the article's author complained that, "Unfortunately, in recent years the FCC has largely abandoned its [decency] mission. In 2013 the FCC’s last chairman, Julius Genachowski, threw out more than one million indecency complaints that had been filed by members of the public, and attempted to gut indecency enforcement entirely. And since then, the networks have 'pushed the envelope' more than ever... The entertainment cartel wants there to be absolutely no restrictions whatsoever on the amount of gore, sex, nudity, and extreme content they dump into every living room in America using the airwaves owned by the American people to do so."
So it looks as though Wheeler has made his decision regarding only looking at "egregious" cases—and gone way, WAY over to censorship's "dark side."
And MiM NCSE couldn't be happier—well, unless someone actually sends them some money!
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