Policy

Senate Takes Up Pryor Safe TV Bill

11/17/2008 11:34 AM Eastern

Washington—The Senate could be close to sending President Bush a bill that would require federal media regulators to study parents' access to technologies that are capable of shielding children from inappropriate content on television and the Internet.

The Child Safe Viewing Act, sponsored by Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), passed the Senate once. The House also passed it in October but stripped out various findings, requiring re-passage by the Senate.

Senate leaders, back on Capitol Hill Monday for a lame duck session, "hotlined" Pryor's bill (S. 602), which means it will be considered passed as soon as tomorrow if no senator files an objection.

"It's been hotlined. We are optimistic, but it's not a done deal," Pryor spokeswoman Lisa Ackerman said.

Under Pryor's bill, the Federal Communications Commission would be restricted to conducting a study for Congress within 270 days; its analysis could not recommend technologies that "affect the packaging or pricing of a content provider's offering."

"It's time for the FCC to take a fresh look at how the market can empower parents with more tools to choose appropriate programming for their children. This bill is a pragmatic, sensible approach where parents, kids and technology can all benefit," Pryor said in a statement after House passage in October.

FCC Democrat Jonathan Adelstein called on FCC chairman Kevin Martin to use the agency's existing authority to conduct the study called for in Pryor's bill.

Under the Pryor bill, the FCC would be required to issue a notice of inquiry, and it would not be authorized to adopt any rules.

Pryor's bill directs the FCC to examine "the existence and availability of advanced blocking technologies that are compatible with various communications devices or platforms."

It would also order the FCC to study ways to encourage parental use of such technologies on "wired, wireless and Internet platforms" in order to shield children "from indecent or objectionable programming" as determined by parents.

The House stripped out a series of congressional "findings" from the Senate bill before passing it by unanimous consent.

The individual findings eliminated by the House were:

-- Video programming has a direct impact on a child's perception of safe and reasonable behavior.

-- Children may imitate actions they witness on video programming, including language, drug use, and sexual conduct.

-- Studies suggest that the strong appeal of video programming erodes the ability of parents to develop responsible attitudes and behavior in their children.

-- The average American child watches 4 hours of television each day.

-- 99.9% of all consumer complaints logged by the FCC the first quarter of 2006 regarding radio and television broadcasting were because of obscenity, indecency, and profanity.

-- There is a compelling government interest in empowering parents to limit their children's exposure to harmful television content.

-- Section 1 of the Communications Act of 1934 requires the FCC to promote the safety of life and property through the use of wire and radio communications.

-- In the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Congress authorized Parental Choice in Television Programming and the V-Chip. Congress further directed action on alternative blocking technology as new video technology advanced."