News Ticker

WDBJ fights extraordinary FCC indecency fine

WDBJ, the TV station in Roanoke, Va. faced with a $325,000 indecency fine, the largest every levied by the Federal Communications Commission for a single infraction, made its case to the agency Wednesday in a 55-page filing.

The Schurz Communications-owned station gave a host of reasons why the FCC was out-of-bounds levying a fine against what it called a fleeting, three-second-long, inadvertent clip in the evening news.

According to the filing, first reported by Broadcasting & Cable, Schurz argues that because the clip did not violate the FCC’s still-vague indecency policies and because the clip aired during the news, the fine violates the First Amendment. Even if a fine were warranted, there is no justification for imposing the maximum for a “fleeting, inadvertent, and isolated transmission,” Schurz said.

The fine caused an uproar in the broadcasting business when FCC enforcement chief Travis LeBlanc doled out the first-ever broadcast indecency fine in seven years.

To broadcasters, the extraordinarily high fine made no sense after the agency only recently said it would focus only on “egregious” cases, which has never been defined.

LeBlanc defended his strategy to make an example with enforcement actions, telling a National Association of Broadcasters audience in April that when he brought his first indecency case he wanted to make sure it was “significant.”