Affils Could Get an Indecency Shield

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Non-network-owned TV affiliates could be shielded from FCC indecency fines like the ones levied against CBS stations for Without a Trace if an amendment to the Senate telecom bill survives.

Passed as a package of amendments added to the bill Tuesday, the amendment, sponsored by Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska, would exempt those stations for fines proposed against network programming that they had not had time to review or had not been warned had inappropriate content--which would presumably include surprises like Janet Jackson or Bono.

Affiliates have raised the issue of insufficient notice on network programming, including in hearings after the Janet Jackson reveal.

The bill has passed committee, but it has to pass on the floor and be reconciled with a House version--which has no such indecency-related provision--before it has a chance to become law.

But if it did, it would be a big victory for "independent affiliates," as the Nelson amendment somewhat oxymoronically puts it.

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