Brownback Tries to Restore FCC's Profanity Power

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Senator and presidential candidate Sam Brownback (R-Kan.)--who helped get the FCC's indecency fines increased 10-fold--wants to give the commission back the profanity enforcement power a federal court decision essentially took away, and add violence regulation to its resume.

Brownback, a member of the Senate Appropriations committee, said Tuesday that he will offer two amendments to a general government appropriations bill Thursday, July 12, one that would "continue support for the FCC to fine broadcasters who air indecent, profane, or obscene content," and another that would "fine broadcasters for airing excessively violent content during the hours when children are most likely to be in the audience."

The profanity amendment, though sounding rather vague on the issue of fleeting profanities, would attempt to gut a decision by the second Circuit Court of Appeals that held the FCC's policy of finding "fleeting profanities" indecent was unjustified and likely unjustifiable, a decision the Parents Television Council (PTC) calls "absurd."

While the court told the FCC it could come back with a better justification for the profanity policy, it did not hold out much hope the commission could do that. The FCC has not yet said what action it would take, though signals from the chairman suggest it will appeal either to the full appeals court or the Supreme Court.

PTC Tuesday put out a bulletin to its members asking them to contact their legislators urging them to support the profanity amendment. It did not mention the violence amendment, but a source said that was because it did not know about it at the time the bulletin was issued. PTC has said TV violence is a priority issue for it.

The violence amendment is in response to an FCC report to Congress that advised the legislature it could change the definition of indecency to include violence, after which the commission was ready to regulate it.

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