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Hill Raises Pressure on Broadcast Indecency

Lawmakers upset by dirty words on TV are keeping up the heat on the Federal Communications Commission and broadcasters.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, announced Tuesday that his panel will hold a hearing examining the FCC’s enforcement of broadcast-indecency standards. "Can You Say That on TV?" is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 28.

FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief David Solomon will testify and no doubt will be asked to explain a recent bureau decision not to fine NBC stations for airing rock star Bono’s use of the f-word during last year’s Golden Globes broadcast.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell and other commissioners will be spared the grilling because most have committed to a hearing on broadcast localism in San Antonio that day.

Family groups are pressing Solomon to make amends somewhat by hitting Fox stations for Nicole Richie’s quip during the Dec. 10 Billboard Music Awards that getting cow sh** out of a Prada purse "is not so f***ing simple." To punish Fox, the groups are duplicating the e-mail campaign created to generate complaints about the Bono-cast.

The FCC’s perceived leniency prompted California’s Rep. Doug Ose and others to introduce a bill that would make the f-word and other terms a violation of FCC rules regardless of context. "All we’re doing is establishing by statute that seven or eight words are profane," Ose told CNN Tuesday.

Much of the controversy is fueled by complaints by readers of the Parents Television Council’s Web site. The volume of complaints from that group and others has so much momentum that nearly every FCC office was hit with hundreds of emails Monday demanding the FCC get tougher.