FCC Pushes for Record-Keeping Proposal

Gretchen Gallen
WASHINGTON – The Federal Communications Commission issued a new record-keeping proposal this week that will put increasing responsibility on media companies for acts of broadcast indecency.

On the heels of raising the indecency fine from $27,500 to $275,000 per incident, the FCC now wants to require broadcasters to keep records of their programs for up to three months to aid FCC indecency investigations.

The FCC has been on the indecency warpath since rocker Bono of U2, Howard Stern and Janet Jackson pushed the limits of public lewdness and profanity on separate occasions.

Similar in certain ways to the pressure the Justice Department is putting on porn companies to keep thorough 2257-compliant documentation on all models used in shoots, videos, and banner ads, the FCC wants broadcasters to keep a master recording of all material aired between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., the time of day that federal law prohibits broadcast references to sexual and excretory functions.

The idea behind the FCC's push is to make it easier for indecency investigators to review suspect programming content.

Indecency investigations are only waged if a member of the public complains about a particular incident.

The proposed rule would apply to television and radio stations, the FCC said in a statement.

But critics of the new proposal say that it would be costly for some of the smaller stations and a strain on limited staff members to keep record of all show recordings.

The five-member FCC panel voted Wednesday in a 4-1 vote in favor of the new record-keeping proposal. A final decision is pending, following a public comment period until mid-August.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps called the proposal "a step forward toward reforming the complaints process."