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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 February, 2005, 15:14 GMT
US indecency fines could rocket
Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake
Jackson's 2004 Super Bowl routine has gone down in TV history
Legislation allowing indecency fines against US TV and radio broadcasters to be increased by 15 times the current level has been approved.

A select committee in the House of Representatives has voted in favour of a bill to increase individual fines to a maximum of $500,000 (268,734).

Stations could also face losing their licence if they violate indecency laws more than three times.

Under the bill, individual performers could also face a fine.

Jackson furore

The proposed changes would require the Federal Commmunications Commission (FCC) to act on complaints within six months and would allow them to consider violations when renewing licences.

It would also give the FCC power to force broadcasters to carry public service announcements following an indecency violation.

The present focus on indecency legislation follows the furore over Janet Jackson's breast exposure at the 2004 Super Bowl.

Twenty CBS stations are currently facing fines totalling $550,000 (295,904) for the Jackson incident.

Million complaints

The maximum penalty in place at the moment for an individual violation is $32,500 (17,465).

The FCC last year received more than a million complaints, half of which related to the Super Bowl episode.

America's other law-making body, the Senate, has also proposed a bill which would see fines rise to $325,000 (174,684), with a maximum $3m (1.6m) for a continuing violation.

The two bodies will have to reach a compromise before the bill can be passed on to President George W. Bush for review.

Indecent material, especially of a sexual or profane nature, is prohibited from broadcast until late at night in the US but cable and satellite services are not covered by these guidelines.

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