After a skirmish that ran along party lines, the House Telecommunications Subcommittee last week passed a bill, 11 to 5, that would keep the FCC from requiring religious broadcasters to meet programming standards to qualify for noncommercial educational broadcast licenses.
"This gives me the eerie feeling that if we don't legislate in this arena, the FCC once again will try to impose onerous restrictions on religious broadcasters," said Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), subcommittee chairman.
Ranking member Ed Markey (D-Mass.) tried to amend the measure so that religious broadcasters would have to include an "educational" component in their programming, but Markey's amendment failed after a testy debate between Republicans and Democrats on the panel.
The vote comes after the FCC in January briefly ruled that WQED Pittsburgh, an owner of two non-commercial stations, would have to adhere to specific content guidelines in order to transfer the noncommercial license of one of its stations, WQEX(TV), to religious broadcaster Cornerstone Television.
The FCC remanded the order later that month.