Senate Addresses Indecency

On Thursday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) introduced a bill to give the FCC authority to fine broadcasters for so-called “fleeting expletives.”

“The Protecting Children From Indecent Programming Act” responds to last month’s decision from a federal appeals court that invalidated several FCC decisions against broadcasters for airing “fleeting expletives,” defined as off-the-cuff obscenities or obscene language that could be interpreted based on context. The court returned the case to the FCC, saying the commission’s rationale on determining what was indecent was “arbitrary and capricious.”

The bill, co-sponsored by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), ranking member Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), and Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), would “require the FCC, in enforcing its regulations concerning the broadcast of indecent programming, to maintain a policy that a single word or image may be considered indecent.”

Earlier in the week Senator and Republican presidential candidate Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) had proposed an amendment to a finance bill that addressed both the fleeting expletive and TV violence issues, but that amendment was voted down.