Voice of AFTRA Members Heard as Indecency Bill Passes Senate
Los Angeles, CA/Washington, DC, May 19, 2006—With thousands of messages sent by members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) to senators, the U.S. Senate late Thursday night approved a version of the broadcast indecency bill supported by AFTRA that does not impose fines on individual Americans for broadcast decency violations.
"Individual fines would be devastating to our members, especially considering that performers and broadcasters don't make the decisions as to what goes on the air. We asked senators to keep performer fines and license forfeiture out of the Indecency Act—and they listened," said actor James Lurie who is chair of the AFTRA Legislative and Public Affairs Committee. “But we’re still watching Congress to make sure performers, recording artists, and broadcasters are not excessively penalized.”
AFTRA members sent nearly 5,000 email messages, since Monday, asking senators to support the bill authored by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) that increases fines on television and radio broadcast stations but does not impose performer fines or license revocation.
The messages are just the latest effort by AFTRA members who have been working over the past 18 months to prevent adoption of performer fines and license forfeiture in any indecency legislation. Ongoing efforts included testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee, face-to-face meetings with senators and their staffers, and targeted communications to key senators on the Commerce Committee.
Although current FCC regulations permit fines against individuals, there is a warning mechanism in the existing regulations, and the maximum fine is $11,000.
The House version of the indecency legislation eliminates any warnings prior to imposition of a fine, and increases fines against individuals by nearly 500%. A fine of that magnitude could subject announcers, actors, journalists, and recording artists to financial ruin as a result of a single indecency violation.
Additionally, the House bill would permit a station’s license to be revoked with as few as one indecency complaint—resulting in the unemployment of everyone at the station, from the receptionist, to the sales staff, to on-air talent, to top management.
AFTRA members will continue monitoring Congress as House and Senate negotiators will have to work out differences in the two versions of the bill before any increase in fines can become law.
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists—affiliated with the AFL-CIO—is a diverse national union representing over 70,000 professional performers, broadcasters, and recording artists in 32 Locals throughout the country. AFTRA members work as actors, broadcast journalists, dancers, singers, announcers, hosts, comedians, and disc jockeys in all aspects of the media industries including television and radio, sound recordings, commercials, non-broadcast/industrials, interactive games, and the Internet. For more information, visit AFTRA online at www.aftra.com.