The Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005 was an an effort to increase the punishment applied to television and radio broadcasters who violate the prohibitions of transmitting “obscene, indecent, and profane material.”

The Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act was signed by George W. Bush in June 2006. Now known as Public Law 109-235, the act amends the Communications Act of 1934. Law 109-235 allows the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to apply greater fines than previously allowed on those who violate the law.

If the FCC determines that a broadcast is obscene, indecent, profane, etc, the FCC can subject the party in violation to a $325,000 fine for every violation committed. This is a ten percent increase from the amount that was allowed to be charged in fines according to the old law.

Bush claimed that this law “will ensure that broadcasters take seriously their duty to keep the public airwaves free of obscene, profane and indecent material.”

This act was originally introduced in January 2005 but did not make any major headway until May 2006 after the shocking halftime performance of Super Bowl XXXVIII by Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. During this performance, Janet Jackson’s breast was exposed, causing quite a sensation. The infamous event resulted in thousands of complaints to the FCC which ultimately resulted in the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act.

There are many organizations such as The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that were concerned about the results of adopting the act. The National Coalition Against Censorship stated that, “major increase in fines, coupled with the ambiguity of the FCC’s definition of indecency, will undermine free speech as broadcast television and radio stations take heavy precautions to avoid violating the vaguely defined laws.”