Congress To Media: Stop Pushing the Envelope


At a House signing ceremony for the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act Thursday in a speaker's office, House and Senate leaders made it clear the bill's passage Wednesday was the first step in steering broadcast television toward their definition of family-friendly programming.

"This sends a clear signal to the networks," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) told reporters and banks of news cameras: "if you peddle trash to the kids, you're going to pay the price." The president is expected to sign the bill next week.

"Today is a victory for American families," said House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and to the values we all cherish." He said the enrolling ceremony, in which a fancy copy of the bill is signed and sent to the President, sends a clear message: "We value the American way of liffe that says 'no' to anything goes."

Decrying sex and violence, which he said was being broadcast  for shock value, Hastert said that the bill puts "sharper teeth behind the rules so that violators truly feel the pain."

Frist (R-Tenn.) said that parents "shouldn't have to wonder if the values they worked so hard for over generations will be chipped away over a 30-minute sitcom."

House Telecommunications Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton, who said the FCC now needs to work on improving its definition of indecency, pointed out he was a lead sponsor on the original indecency bill. He said he was prompted by transcripts of fines that apalled him.

He had a message for edgy programmers: "Folks are going to think twice before they push the envelope," he said.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) did mention that the industry was launchinga $300 million education campaign to teach parents about existing content-blocking tools, but he too supported the bill.