Bill to penalize TV indecency stalled

WASHINGTON (BP)--A bill seeking to strengthen restrictions on television indecency finally escaped a Senate committee in December but now sits idly on the Senate legislative calendar with no signs of moving anytime soon.

The Protecting Children From Indecent Programming Act, S. 1780, attempts to remedy the Second Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling in June that the Federal Communications Commission could not prohibit television networks from airing fleeting expletives.

The appeals court's opinion ruling was issued after the live Fox Channel 2002 and 2003 Billboard Music Awards programs made use of the F-word and/or S-word while on air. The FCC ruled in those incidents a single use of the F-word would be considered indecent, but the New York-based court rejected the FCC's decisions.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, recently published an article on the ERLC's website urging those who helped push the bill past the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to return to their phones.

"The decision [by the circuit court] greatly curtails the FCC's authority to fully enforce a new law -- passed with your help -- to fine broadcasters up to $325,000 per indecency violation," Land said. "And it opens the doors for networks to routinely air fleeting expletives between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., when children are likely to watch television."

The bill's supporters say they are telling the television networks the public owns the airwaves and has a right to regulate them, especially when it concerns children watching television shows with inappropriate language and situations.

"Television is fast becoming a moral sewer, and broadcast networks are getting away with it," Land said.

The Senate panel approved the legislation by unanimous consent in July, but the measure languished in the committee for nearly five months. After the bill's advocates urged the committee to follow through, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D.-Hawaii, the committee chairman, reported the bill to the full Senate Dec. 5.

The bill would restore authority to the FCC by requiring the agency to "maintain a policy that a single word or image may constitute indecent programming."

On Feb. 4, the ERLC and other pro-family organizations urged citizens in support of the bill to call their senators and ask them to encourage Sens. Harry Reid, D.-Nev., and Mitch McConnell, R.-Ky., to schedule a vote in Congress on the bill. Senators can be contacted by dialing the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or through e-mail.

Katherine Kipp, a junior at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., is attending the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities' Washington Journalism Center this semester and serving as an intern with Baptist Press. With reporting by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.

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