A Tale of Two Offences

The Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005 is expected to pass in the House of Representatives.  According to Reuters, fines to both broadcast companies and individual broadcasters will be increased to $500,000 per “indecent” incident aired between 6:00am and 10:00pm.

Major League Baseball has announced new steroid rules.  According to CBS News, “A first positive test would result in a suspension of up to 10 days, a second positive test a 30-day ban, a third positive a 60-day penalty, and a fourth positive test a one-year ban.”

Quick look at the numbers:

The average baseball player’s salary in 2003 was $2,555,476 per year. Therefore, a 10-day suspension (not a 10-game suspension, mind you), without pay, would cost the player $70,013 [($2,555,476 / 365) x 10].

While average broadcaster salary data are harder to nail down (especially since there are many types of broadcasters), if a $500,000 fine had equal weight to a baseball player’s 10-day suspension, the broadcaster would have to earn $18,250,000 per year [($500,000 / 10) x 365].

So, here are my questions:

  1. Why doesn’t MLB have the guts to simply implement a zero tolerance policy and ban, for life, any player caught using illegal and/or banned performance enhancing drugs?  Included in every contract would be the zero tolerance clause and a player would forfeit every penny of future contractual wages if caught.  Baseball may take a hit for a few years while fans’ expectations are reset to not expect blistering home runs and unbelievable brute force, but fans will also learn to once again appreciate the game for what it used to be – a game of strategy, tactics and skill.
  2. What clear framework will be placed around the concept of “indecent?”  While I have a young son and there are certainly things I don’t want him seeing or hearing on television and radio, I also understand that broadcasters are often out to entertain and one person’s indecency is another person’s humor.  I am all for a framework around what can and can’t be broadcast over public airwaves, but in fairness to the broadcasters, there must be clear rules on what is ‘indecent” and what is not. Otherwise, fines will be indiscriminant.
  3. How can these two entertainment entities be so opposite?  MLB has firm rules on what is and is not allowed, but considering what the average player earns (let alone the top earners), the penalties are weak compared to what many players likely feel they potentially have to gain if they are willing to take the risk.  By contrast, the broadcasting indecency rules are murky at best, but the fines are astronomical.  While comparing the two may not be entirely apples-to-apples, it’s a pretty darn interesting to look at two high-profile groups completing botching (in my opinion) regulation and enforcement.