Sen. Brownback to Introduce Amendment for Broadcast Decency

Presidential hopeful Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) planned to introduce a new amendment Thursday that would strengthen the enforcement of broadcast decency laws, which would in effect protect children from violence and sexual material on television.

The new proposal will be added and voted on during the Senate Appropriations Committee markup and gives more ability for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to act against broadcast networks using indecent material.

If the amendment passes, it would void a U.S. Court of Appeals decision in early June that ruled that "unscripted" profanity slips did not count as indecency.

"We hope that the U.S. Senate will affirm the FCC's authority to enforce the broadcast decency laws rather than letting two judges in New York override strong public opinion for – and Congress' own overwhelming vote for – the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, which increased fines to broadcasters who violate the law," expressed Tim Winter, president of the media watchdog Parents Television Council (PTC), in a statement. "We applaud Sen. Brownback for his effort to correct the faulty logic of the court's ruling."

On June 4, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York voted by a 2-1 margin that new regulations put out by the FCC were both "arbitrary and capricious," and that broadcasters would not be held accountable for "unscripted" profanity.

Pro-family groups were upset by the result since they felt that stations should not be able to get off so easily over inappropriate content, even if it was an accident. Kids viewing the program are still affected by the material regardless of the mistake, they argued.

The appeal was a result of a Mar. 6 ruling by the FCC against FOX television for breaking indecency standards over two separate Billboard Music Awards in which hosts Cher and Nicole Richie had used both the "F-word" and "S-word."

The decision was considered a victory for big networks since it would hold them to less strict guidelines in the future and would keep them free from increased indecency fines that were passed about one year ago. A violation could cost a network up to $325,000.

Advocates of the proposed amendment hope that the new legislation will hold networks more accountable, so that their children will be more protected from harmful programming.

"Last year the television networks filed suit for the right to be able to use the 'F-word' and 'S-word' at any time of the day, even in front of children," added Winter. "Last month, in a 2-1 decision, a court in New York agreed with the TV networks and ruled in their favor. The court's decision runs contrary to nearly 80 years of jurisprudence about the publicly-owned airwaves, and it runs contrary to the overwhelming sense of the nation. Two judges in New York should not dictate the decency standards for the entire nation."

On June 26, U.S. senator and pro-family advocates met at the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation to discuss the violence and indecent material that children are exposed to on television. They urged fellow lawmakers to increase protection, explaining the detrimental affects that TV can have on youth.