New broadcast indecency legislation died in the Congressional pre-election rush almost as quickly as Janet Jackson’s costume malfunction flashed by viewers during the last Super Bowl.
The legislation, which would have exponentially increased the fines on broadcasters and performers for vaguely defined indecent acts, was stripped from a bill authorizing Defense Department operations in the final hours before the Congressional recess. In its final version, broadcasters and on-air performers could have been fined a maximum of $3 million a day.
The end for the controversial Broadcast Decency Act came after some senators raised First Amendment concerns and insisted that any legislation also include media ownership restrictions. With time running out for more pressing legislation, the complexities swamped the broadcast issues.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, opposed fining television performers up to $500,000 for a single indecency action.
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) wanted current media ownership rules — not the new ones passed a year ago by the FCC — attached to any new law. That was too much for many lawmakers.
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