The FCC recently approved a consent decree involving a broadcaster with TV stations in California, Utah and Texas accused of airing indecent and profane content.

Section 73.3999 of the FCC’s Rules prohibits radio and television stations from broadcasting obscene material at all times and prohibits indecent material aired between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.

The FCC received multiple complaints about the television show in question and sent Letters of Inquiry to the broadcaster asking it to provide a copy of the program and to answer questions about possible violations of the FCC’s indecency rule. The licensee complied with the requests but maintained that the program did not contain indecent content.

Earlier this month, the FCC entered into a consent decree with the broadcaster and agreed to terminate its investigation and dismiss the pending indecency complaints. Under the terms of the consent decree, the broadcaster is required to (a) designate a Compliance Officer within 30 days, and (b) create and implement a company-wide Compliance Plan within 60 days, which must include: (i) creating operating procedures to ensure compliance with the FCC’s restrictions on indecency, (ii) drafting a Compliance Manual, (iii) training employees about what constitutes indecent content, and (iv) reporting noncompliance to the FCC within 30 days of discovering any violations. The consent decree also requires the filing of a compliance report with the FCC in 90 days and annually thereafter for a period of 3 years. The requirements imposed under the consent decree expire after three years.

In addition to the compliance program, the licensee agreed to make a voluntary contribution of $110,000 to the United States Treasury. The licensee also admitted for purposes of the consent decree that its television show “inadvertently violated the Commission’s interpretation of its indecency regulations . . . .”

While the FCC did not go into detail about the “indecent” content of the program, the consumer complaints asserted it involved “pornographic film performers and exotic dancers.” In April of 2013, the FCC released a request for comments on its indecency enforcement that indicated the Chairman of the FCC at the time had instructed FCC staff to focus only on the most “egregious” examples of alleged indecency violations. In pursuing the consent decree, it appears the FCC believed that the program at issue fell into that category.