After an investigation, the FCC says the CBS Roanoke, Va., affiliate during a July 2012 newscast apparently aired “extremely graphic and explicit sexual content, specifically a video image of a hand stroking an erect penis.”
The FCC today hit Schurz Communications’ WDBJ Roanoke-Lynchburg, Va. (DMA 67), with a $325,000 fine “for apparently broadcasting extremely graphic and explicit sexual content, specifically a video image of a hand stroking an erect penis” during a newscast.
The FCC said the July 2012 broadcast violated the prohibition on indecent broadcasting. Schurz still has the right to appeal the fine at the FCC.
In responding to the FCC inquiries about the broadcast, Schurz concedes that the CBS affiliate aired the offending images, but says it did so inadvertently.
The images popped up in a story about an “ex-porn star” who had joined a local rescue squad.
In introducing the actress turned community helper, the station showed a page from an adult website featuring the woman. On the right side of the page were a series of boxes, one of which showed the “indecent” images.
“Although the box does not show the entire body or face of the apparently nude male depicted, the image shows a hand moving up and down the length of the shaft of the erect penis.
In its defense, Schurz said that the image was visible for less than three seconds.
According to the FCC, Schurz also “claims that the smaller boxes, including the image of the penis, were not visible on the monitors in the station’s editing bay, and therefore, the station’s news director and other management personnel who had reviewed the story did not see the indecent material prior to the broadcast.”
The Parents Television Council applauded the FCC action. “The FCC’s unanimous and bipartisan ruling is a victory for families, and it serves as a powerful reminder to broadcasters who borrow the public’s airwaves that they must abide by the law,” said PTC President Tim Winter.
Dennis Wharton, NAB executive vice president, communications, commented: “NAB is disappointed with today’s remarkably punitive indecency fine proposed against WDBJ. Schurz Communications apologized for the fleeting image, which was clearly unintended. This unprecedented fine against a family-owned broadcaster with a demonstrated commitment to serving communities is wholly unwarranted.”