Approximately three-dozen House members have sent a letter to the White House asking that the president name a new Federal Communications Commission chairman who is just as proactive on indecency enforcement as the current chairman.
The President addressed that issue in an interview Jan. 30, but apparently the answer did not suffice.
"We would like to stress our belief in the need for a Chairman who will continue to uphold the laws passed by Congress and continue to crack down on patently offensive material on public airwaves," the legislators wrote. Current FCC Chairman Michael Powell is leaving in March.
The President spoke to the issue of a new chairman and indecency enforcement in an interview with C-Span that aired Jan. 30, four days after the letter was originally drafted. The letter was not sent out until late last week to give more members a chance to sign on.
In that interview, the President called himself a free speech advocate, saying that parents, not government, are the "first line of responsibility when it comes to protecting children from indecent TV programming."
The President did say there is a role for regulators. The government, can, "at times, not censor, but call to account programming that gets over the line," he told C-Span's Brian Lamb in the interview.
The President said that when he is picking a new FCC Chairman, he will ask where he thinks that line is, but later clarified that that was not a litmus test.
The legislators weren't satisfied with that answer, however, said an aide to one of the signatories, and are looking for some more assurance in the form of a response, hopefully this week.
Following is the text of the letter:
Dear President Bush:
With the resignation of FCC Chairman Michael Powell, there is a unique opportunity to fill this vacancy with someone who will remain strong on enforcement of current indecency standards. We would like to stress our belief in the need for a Chairman who will continue to uphold the laws passed by Congress and continue to crack down on patently offensive material on public airwaves.
Congress and the Administration made great strides over the last four years, under your leadership, in enforcing our nation's obscenity, child pornography, and indecency laws. This material had bombarded our nation's airwaves and the Internet for much too long with little enforcement. While we acknowledge the importance of parental control over children's viewing habits, Hollywood and certain media companies work to ensure that children are exposed to it whether they or their parents like it or not. Yet, under pressure from the enforcement of these laws, they have finally acknowledged that when using the public airwaves, they are not immune from the law.
Specifically within the last year, indecency fines have been enforced by your Administration, sending a clear signal that Americans will no longer stand for such images to invade their homes. While opponents believe that the enforcement of such standards is detrimental, Chairman Powell stated it best when he said, "Berating citizens who believe in values and reasonable limits is insulting and polarizing and distracts from the legitimate issues of this policy debate." It is important that these policy debates continue, and include concepts such as issuing fines based upon each utterance, enforcing the prohibition on "profanity" over the airwaves, and emphasizing industry self-regulation.
The FCC has been entrusted with promoting the public interest with respect to our public airwaves, and as such, should firmly enforce our federal decency laws, applying the plain meaning of the statute, and the Congressional intent behind the statute. The next FCC Chairman will oversee an important time in our nation's history, and they must be ready to aggressively enforce the laws that Congress has passed. We encourage you to nominate an individual of boldness, strength, and vision, who will continue the work already begun. We must not let immorality become normalized, nor federal laws ignored.
Thank you for your continued leadership and we look forward to working with you on this important issue.
Other signatories include Chip Pickering (-Miss.), Mark Souder (Ind.), Todd Akin (Mo.), Henry Brown (R-S.C.), Dave Weldon (R-Fla.), Anne Northrup (R-Ky.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and John Doolittle (R-Calif.).