Schurz’s WDBJ Draws $325K Indecency Fine

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.”

Comments (8)

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Christina Fleming says:

March 23, 2015 at 3:50 pm

With our cable universe the next channel over probably had full sex. 1/3 of a million dollars for a small station making a mistake is way too much. Parents Television Council itself is porn.

    Monica Patterson says:

    March 23, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    Small Station?????? Check the FCC Political Revenue file. WDBJ and Schurz can afford the fine.

Janet Frankston Lorin says:

March 23, 2015 at 4:02 pm

Tim Winter and the PTC are such publicity whores that they would pimp their own children to get attention. The truth of the matter is that WDBJ was doing the work of the PTC when they aired this story. They were exposing the infiltration of pornography into the local culture. You would think that the PTC would be giving them an award, but there’s no self promotion in that. I’m sure that they will include a link to the porn site in their on-line story when they boast about how they brought the big bad TV station down, and that won’t be accidental!

    Gene Johnson says:

    March 23, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    The former actress joining the community rescue squad amounts to the “infiltration of pornography into the local culture?” While I didn’t see the news report (and obviously can’t anymore), how do you know that was the story’s orientation? Further, why is someone joining the rescue squad, to help others, not a good thing? Are people not entitled to move one from whatever they may have done in the past, particularly when it is not illegal?

    Janet Frankston Lorin says:

    March 23, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    Sarcasm Jimmy V, sarcasm.

    Gene Johnson says:

    March 24, 2015 at 9:28 am

    Sorry for not picking up on that, but on this site, and in these discussion forums, you just never know. There are some pretty far out comments (on other articles) that I’ve read that clearly were not sarcasm.

charles spencer says:

March 23, 2015 at 4:02 pm

Trying to edit a 16:9 piece of video, center-cut on a 4:3 monitor? Or just blowing up the video to make it easier to see on a monitor that’s too small to get the job done?

none none says:

March 23, 2015 at 4:17 pm

$325,000 worth of proof that size matters.