Rep. Pickering Introduces Indecency Bill

Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) introduced the Protecting Children from Indecent Programming Act, which "requires the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] to maintain a policy that a single word or image may be considered indecent in enforcing its regulations concerning the broadcast of indecent programming over the public airwaves."

The bill and that of Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), are a response to a ruling in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that the FCC had failed to justify a change in policy that saw it cracking down on fleeting profanities.

Rockefeller's bill passed out of committee in the Senate but it has not gotten floor time for a vote in the full Senate.

“Values, character and faith are the foundation of the American family," Pickering said in announcing the bill. "Not one of those principals is present in vulgarity or the indecency of an image, whether it is shown once or 10 times. Through this legislation, we will end the discrepancy of how many times it takes to claim profane material inappropriate and enforceable by the FCC. We can continue to raise our children as respectable, responsible and honorable individuals who know right from wrong and who know once is enough.”

The American Civil Liberties Union said no children would be helped in the making of this law. “It is likely that any regulations will violate the First Amendment rights of adults who watch television," said Marvin Johnson, First Amendment counsel.  "If  Uncle Sam wants a role in America’s living rooms, then Congress should consider funding media literacy education for parents and not go down this path that will only lead to more lawsuits. No children will be helped by this legislation.”

Joining Pickering in sponsoring the bill were Jim Matheson (D-UT), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), and Joseph Pitts (R-PA).

The Parents Television Council, which pushed for the bill that upped FCC indecency fines, applauded this bill as well. "Congress must act in the public interest immediately in order to ensure the public’s airwaves are a safe place for children,”  said PTC President Tim Winter.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.