Broadcast decency legislation held up in Senate

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WASHINGTON — A bill that would strengthen a tough broadcast indecency policy is stuck in a Senate committee.

Sens. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, co-sponsored the Protecting Children from Indecent Programming Act to restore regulation of sex, profanity and violence on broadcast TV. But now critics claim they are dragging their feet.

In June, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to strike down the Federal Communications Commission's nearly zero-tolerance policy on the broadcast of certain expletives, including so-called "fleeting uses."

Networks cannot air indecent content during the "safe harbor" hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., when millions of children and families are watching. The 2nd Circuit ruling could change that.

Daniel Weiss, senior analyst of media and sexuality for Focus on the Family Action, said Stevens and Inouye need to be held accountable.

"The entertainment industry is essentially suing for use of the f-word," he said. "If we lose the ability to keep indecency from the airwaves, television as we know it will be finished. Instead of quality programming, we will have a stinking cesspool at all hours of the day."

Dan Isett, director of corporate and government affairs for the Parents Television Council, said FCC fines are meaningless if it doesn't have the ability to enforce the law. 

"What's really at stake today is the continued ability of the FCC to have any sort of broadcast decency enforcement," he told Family News in Focus. "The broadcast networks are asserting the 'right' to air the s- and the f-word and have even said things like the Janet Jackson inciden —a strip tease in the middle of the Super Bowl—are somehow not indecent. Clearly, it's an industry that's lost its way and needs to be reigned in."

Weiss urges people, no matter what state they live in, to flood the senators' state offices with calls. 

"We feel confident," he said, "that if we can get the bill to the floor for a vote by the full Senate, it will pass with ease."