The House last week passed legislation 264-159 that would prevent the FCC from dictating religious broadcasters' use of noncommercial TV licenses.
Republicans on the House Commerce Committee pushed the bill after the FCC last December tried to dictate what type of content religious broadcaster Cornerstone Television could air over its new noncommercial station, WQEX-TV Pittsburgh.
Ultimately, Cornerstone didn't acquire the station, and the FCC rescinded its decision after Congress made its objections clear. But Republicans said they wanted to ensure the FCC had no statutory authority to make such a decision again.
"The concern that [the commission] might make that mistake again is still with us," said House Telecommunications Subcommittee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) while leading the floor debate.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) fought hard to get an amendment passed that would have required religious programming on noncommercial stations to be educational, but the amendment failed 174-250.
"This bill is really over whether a religion can gain control over a noncommercial station and then use it to serve the goals of its own religion and not the community," Markey said.
Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.) is sponsoring a similar bill in the Senate, but it has not yet moved beyond the Senate Commerce Committee.