TV Indecency Is Put to a Vote

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The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to vote this Thursday on a bill that would give the Federal Communications Commission permission to fine TV stations for the fleeting broadcast of the F-word and similar profanities.

Sen. John D. “Jay” Rockefeller unveiled the bill moments after the Senate Appropriations Committee refused last Thursday to add nearly identical language to the FCC’s fiscal 2008 budget at the request of Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), a GOP presidential candidate and ardent foe of TV sex, foul language and violence.

Rockefeller spokesman Steven Broderick said the senator would release separate legislation dealing with TV violence “soon” but not in time for Thursday’s vote. The TV-violence bill, he added, would apply to the cable industry.

Rockefeller and Brownback are trying to help the FCC rebound from a major court defeat on broadcast indecency.

In June, a panel of U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit voided the FCC’s new policy that the unscripted, one-time utterance of the F-word was indecent and subject to the $325,000 maximum fine.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin, who blasted the court ruling as hindering his campaign to clean up the airwaves, has urged Congress for more authority to police radio and TV stations. Martin also wants power to force cable companies to provide bill credits to consumers for blocking channels.

The Appropriations Committee rejected Brownback’s FCC indecency amendment on a voice vote. Brownback sought a vote even though it was clear he would lose. Despite agreeing with Brownback on policy, some senators said it was more important to honor the tradition of not legislating on spending bills than to support Brownback.

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