Las Vegas -- Like TV stations, cable operators should be covered by federal rules that ban indecent programming during hours when children are expected to be in the audience, Federal Communications Commission member Michael Copps said Tuesday.
"I think it's time for them to come under some oversight," Copps said in comments at the National Association of Broadcasters' convention here.
Copps' comments were notable mainly because if Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is elected president, he might turn to Democrat Copps to lead the FCC on an interim or full-time basis.
Later, Copps said he would support an FCC rulemaking on questions related to the constitutionality of applying broadcast-indecency regulations to cable in light of at least one Supreme Court ruling that government must meet a high legal burden in order to regulate pay TV services.
Copps noted in his remarks that the Senate Commerce Committee recently defeated by one vote an amendment that would have included cable within the FCC's indecency regime, which includes fines for airing indecent programming between 6 a.m.-10 p.m., or two-thirds of the broadcast day.
Based on that vote, Copps predicted that indecency regulation "may very well be in [cable's] long-term future."
Other FCC members who appeared with Copps said they were unwilling to tackle cable indecency without a firm legislative mandate.
"That direction would have to come from Congress," Republican FCC member Kathleen Abernathy said.
Democrat FCC member Jonathan Adelstein added, "I think we would be on much safer constitutional ground if Congress were to give us some clarification here."