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Senate Commerce To Consider Next-Generation Content Blockers

The Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled Aug. 2 to mark up--add or subtract amendments and debate--a bill that would create what is billed as "the next generation" of parental-control technology.

The bill, introduced by Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR), would require the FCC to search for advanced content-blocking technologies that work across a variety of platforms, including wireless, cable and the Internet and could potentially work on everything from TV sets and DVD players to cable set-tops, cell phones, and PDAs.

The goal, says the bill, is to find "technologies that can improve or enhance the ability of a parent to protect his or her child from any indecent or objectionable video or audio programming, as determined by such parent, that is transmitted through the use of wire, wireless, or radio communication."

The devices would need to operate independently of any ratings system, which distinguishes them from the V-chip, which applies only to broadcasts and works in conjunction with the ratings system adopted by all the major networks..

That system has come under fire from some on Capitol Hill and the FCC for inconsistent application and the fact that some programming is unrated.

If the bill passes, the FCC would be required to initiate a rulemaking proceeding to encourage, or even mandate, use of such technologies to "enhance the ability of a parent to protect his or her child from indecent or objectionable programming, as determined by such parent."