Is the indecency movement on the skids?

June 14, 2004

Even though the FCC last week entered into a highly publicized $1.75 million agreement with Clear Channel Communications to resolve indecency investigations involving radio programming, the speeding train of proposed new indecency legislation in Congress appears to have slowed.

The post-Super Bowl flap over Janet Jackson’s performance set off an election-year frenzy among politicians, with the House of Representatives passing a bill last March that would significantly increase the financial penalties on broadcasters found to have violated so-called standards of decency.

But, for all the legislative posturing, the prospects for such a measure reaching President Bush’s desk before the November election appear far less assured than they did a few months ago.

In the Senate, a measure approved by the Commerce Committee in March has yet to be scheduled for discussion by the full body. The delay in bringing the Senate bill to the floor is tied partly to the broader politics of the Senate.

But, for the senators themselves, according to the New York Times, there is also the danger of investing too much political capital in such a divisive issue, which has pitted some social conservatives and child-advocacy groups against major broadcasters and civil-rights advocates.

In addition, the Senate version of the proposed legislation contains other controversial provisions — including one that would seek to curb violent content on television, not just sex and swearing — that the House bill explicitly avoided.

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