With key senators threatening to regulate racy cable content, Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wants to makes sure his side of Capitol Hill rejects the idea.
Sanders is sponsoring legislation clarifying that the FCC's authority to regulate programming for indecency applies only to broadcast television and radio, not cable, satellite or the Internet.
"There is a growing culture of censorship in this country that needs to be stopped," Sanders said. "Government commissars should not be the arbiters of what Americans see and hear." S
Sanders' legislation was introduced shortly after Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens threatened to apply broadcast-style indecency restrictions on cable, which conceivably would require HBO, Comedy Central and other nets to relegate popular shows like The Sopranos and The Daily Show to hours after 10 p.m.
Stevens later said he would back off if cable and satellite distributors began offering family-themed programming packages. But just last week Stevens' colleagues Jay Rockefeller and Kay Bailey Hutchison introduced their own bill to give the FCC the power to regulate pay-TV indecency, and violence too.
Sanders said he was optimistic that the House would block any new restrictions on cable and satellite. "There is growing concern in Congress about censorship and we are cautiously optimistic about this legislation passing. There are a number of potential [legislative] vehicles we can use to move this legislation and we are looking at all of them."