Skip to main content

Broadcast-Decency Bill Returns

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) Wednesday will reintroduce a "broadcast-decency" bill to try again to give the Federal Communications Commission more firepower in the fight against sex and rough language.

According to an aide, it will be a "clean" bill, which means simply a straight ten-fold increase in the FCC fine for indecency, from $32,500 to $325,000 per incident, up to a maximum of $3 million per violation.

Co-sponsors currently signed on include Senators Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), George Allen (R-Va.). More are expected by Wednesday, said the aide.
Brownback introduced a "decency" bill in the last Congress, which got loaded down with deal-breakers in committee. They included bringing license renewal into play after three fines, targeting performers, and adding inquiries into violence and the effects of consolidation on programming.

The initially bipartisan bill started losing some support, particularly after creative community types pointed out to Democrats that it threatened to have a chilling effect on content, from ER to Antiques Roadshow.

Thoe deal-breakers were stripped before a final, "clean," version was added as an amendment to defense authorization legislation, but even that version was utlimately pruned in an attempt to get the authorization bill passed.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who introduced the House version of indecency enforcement legislation in the last Congress, also plans to reintroduce his decency bill by the end of the month. Plans were still being made at press time, but look for a relatively clean bill from Upton as well. He warned early on that adding "dealbreakers" in committee would undercut any effort to boost FCC enforcement powers.

Both bills in the last Congress were spurred by the Janet Jackson Super Bowl reveal and by the FCC's initial decision that an F-word uttered by singer Bono wasn't indecent (the FCC reversed itself under pressure from Congress).