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Obscenity, Indecency and Profanity

It is a violation of federal law to air obscene programming at any time. It is also a violation of federal law to broadcast indecent or profane programming during certain hours. (See definitions). Congress has given the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the responsibility for administratively enforcing the law that governs these types of broadcasts. The FCC has authority to issue civil monetary penalties, revoke a license or deny a renewal application. In addition, violators of the law, if convicted in a federal district court, are subject to criminal fines and/or imprisonment for not more than two years.

The FCC vigorously enforces this law where we find violations. The Commission has also toughened its enforcement penalties by proposing monetary penalties based on each indecent utterance in a broadcast, rather than proposing a single monetary penalty for the entire broadcast.

At the same time, however, the Commission is careful of First Amendment protections and the prohibitions on censorship and interference with broadcasters' freedom of speech. The FCC has denied complaints in cases in which we determined the broadcast was not indecent based on the overall context of the programming.

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