Brownback offers boost to FCC

Senator tries to increase unit's authority

WASHINGTON — Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, a contender for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, will make an effort to explicitly grant the Federal Communications Commission authority over fleeting expletives on the broadcast airwaves — authority a federal appellate court recently said the agency does not have.

The attempt will also include extending FCC regulatory authority over violent content.

The senior lawmaker plans to attach to a finance bill amendments that would extend FCC indecency authority over “excessively violent content” and inadvertent broadcast of expletives uttered even just once in passing.

The agency had cited Fox for two live broadcasts that included the words “fuck” and “shit” that awards show guests uttered fleetingly. But the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals rebuked the commission, saying it lacked such authority, and thus vacated the FCC citations.

The 2-1 decision held that legal precedent governing broadcast indecency exempted fleeting language or images that might otherwise be deemed indecent. If ultimately passed by Congress and signed by President Bush, the fleeting-expletive amendment would essentially invalidate the court’s decision.

It was unclear what would constitute “excessively violent content,” but Brownback’s office confirmed that the restriction, like the one on indecent content, would only apply during hours when children are likely to be in the audience. Currently that period is defined as 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“Broadcasters should not be allowed to use the public airways to disseminate violent or obscene material,” Brownback in a statement. “The abundance of indecent material on television is one indication of the coarsening of our culture.”

Brownback will offer his amendments during a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting on Thursday to discuss the finance bill.

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