Indecency Four Years After Fox Television Stations: From Big Papi to a Porn Star, An Egregious Mess at the FCC Continues

Clay Calvert*

Minch Minchin**

Kéran Billaud***

Kevin Bruckenstein****

Tershone Phillips*****

In March 2015, the Federal Communications Commission  (FCC or Commission) proposed fining a Roanoke, Virginia, television station a whopping $325,000 for briefly broadcasting extremely graphic and explicit sexual material, specifically, a video image of a hand stroking an erect penis. The offending content aired for three seconds on WDBJ Channel 7 during a 6:00PM news segment about a former female porn star turned local volunteer rescue squad member.

At first blush, the FCC‘s proposed indecency fine seems like a legal slam dunk. As media attorney Harry Cole wryly writes, “[e]rect penises (and the manipulation thereof) are well outside the range of conventional prime-time acceptability.”

Continue reading.


* Professor & Brechner Eminent Scholar in Mass Communication; Director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida, Gainesville. Ph.D., 1996, Stanford University; J.D., 1991, McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific; B.A., 1987, Stanford University.

** Graduate Research Fellow, Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project. M.A., 2014, University of Florida; B.S., 2011, University of Florida.

*** Graduate Research Fellow, Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project. M.A., 2014, University of Florida; B.A., 2012, Emory & Henry College.

**** Graduate Research Fellow, Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project. B.S., 2014, University of Florida.

***** Graduate Research Fellow, Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project. B.S., 2014, University of Florida.