New indecency bill clears Senate Commerce Committee

Attempting to undo a recent ruling by a federal appeals court, members of the Senate Commerce Committee voted unanimously last week to restore the government’s authority to police broadcast content.

If the legislation passes the full Congress and is signed by the President, television and radio broadcasters could again be fined for airing a single profanity — even if it is fleeting and regardless of the context.

The bill attempts to override an appeals court ruling that invalidated the FCC’s new profanity policy. By a 2-1 vote, the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals in New York negated the profanity rules, contending the FCC failed to “articulate a reasoned basis for its change in policy.”

Sponsored by Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, and Mark Pryor, D-AR, the new legislation would require the FCC “to maintain a policy that a single word or image may be considered indecent.” It doesn’t address whether a word or image in a particular context is actually indecent.

The committee passed the bill unanimously. Co-sponsors included the committee chairman, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-HI, and Sen. Ted Stevens, R-AK.

Following the vote, Kevin Martin, the FCC chairman, said members of Congress “stated once again what we on the commission and every parent already knows: Even a single word or image can indeed be indecent.”

The NAB reacted negatively, stating “This bill is premised on the completely false notion that broadcasters are clamoring to air ‘F-bombs’ and ‘S-words.’ Stations go to great lengths to prevent such language, and it is