Senate’s in a hurry on indecency bill

Cable TV, satellite radio may come under FCC authority

WASHINGTON — The Senate may soon take up indecency legislation already passed by the House in a fast-tracking move that could include an attempt to bring cable television and satellite radio content under FCC authority.

Currently finishing up an overhaul of bankruptcy laws, the Senate could address the legislation as early as Thursday, according to a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

Last month, the House overwhelmingly passed indecency legislation that increases fines to $500,000, allows the FCC to fine performers for first-offenses and requires the agency to consider revoking broadcast licenses of repeat offenders. A Senate companion bill — which only increases fines — has not moved yet out of committee.

If the Senate passes the House legislation, it would ready the bill for White House approval. But that could be complicated by Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who reportedly wants to insert a proposal that would bring cable television and satellite radio under FCC indecency authority.

The FCC currently regulates only broadcast content. And Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), lead sponsor of the House indecency legislation, opposes any attempt to bring cable and satellite under FCC purview, fearing it would tie up the ensuing legislative package in legal challenges.

If the Senate attached any proposals or amendments to the House legislation, it would have to go back to the House for another vote. Observers don’t expect Upton and his supporters would pass such an amended package.

A knowledgeable source doubted seriously that the Senate would take up the legislation this week, but congressional aides said that the chamber was sure to give the legislation at least some consideration.

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