Brownback, FCC hit a wall

Amendment to extend authority fails to pass

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kans.) failed to get through an amendment that would have extended Federal Communications Commission policing authority over fleeting profanity.

But another key lawmaker, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), promised that the Senate Commerce Committee, over which he presides, would take up identical legislation as soon as next week.

Brownback had tried to attach his amendment to a finance bill under consideration in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Inouye had opposed the amendment, but only on procedural grounds, arguing that the Appropriations Committee was not the proper forum to debate the issue.

The Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over the FCC, hence Inouye’s insistence that legislation aimed at fleeting expletives be debated there. That could happen as early as next week, Inouye said, as Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), a committee member, introduced a bill Thursday afternoon that would prohibit fleeting profanity from broadcast airwaves.

After Brownback unveiled his amendment, almost no Appropriations Committee members spoke in support of them. It failed on a voice vote. Brownback had intended to introduce another amendment – to extend FCC authority over “excessively violent” TV content – but did not do it.

A federal appellate court recently rebuked the FCC for having cited Fox for broadcasting fleeting expletives during two separate live shows. The court said that, under existing law, FCC indecency authority did not extend over fleeting instances. Brownback wants to grant that authority to the commission.

Rockefeller’s bill intends to do the same. It states that the commission “shall maintain a policy that a single word or image may constitute indecent programming.”

An aide said Rockefeller plans to introduce a separate bill to address TV violence later.

Television violence, an issue that cycles up and down in prominence, usually during election seasons, has drawn attention in recent months, following an FCC report that said TV violence can harm children in the short term and that Congress should consider enacting regulatory measures.

“I don’t really see today’s vote as a defeat,” said Dan Isett, director of government affairs for the Parents Television Council, which strongly supports legislation against fleeting profanity and TV violence. “This issue is not going away.”

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