Rockefeller Pushes Vote on Cable/Sat Smut Bill

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If Senator John D. Rockefeller has his way, the Senate Commerce Committee will vote on potentially rolling cable and satellite into the FCC's indecency enforcement regime, adding violence to the commission's indecency oversight authority, and codifying new FCC digital kids rules into the bargain.

An aide said Monday Rockefeller will try to make that vote part of a mark-up of a rewrite of the 1996 Telco Act.

James Reid, a top aide to the West Virginia Democrat, who was on a panel briefing for broadcast executives brought in by the National Association of Broadcasters for an annual legislative meet and greet.

Reid said he knew that was something the broadcasters weren't pleased to hear, even suggesting that is why they had him speak last (NAB said no). But while recognizing industry efforts to self-regulate and educate, he said Rockefeller still planned to introduce his bill as part of telecommunications reform legislation, "either in its totality" or "section by section."

"I fully expect the commerce committee sometime in 2006 will vote on bringing cable and satellite into the FCC's regime," he said.

Rockefeller's bill would require the FCC to "validate" voluntary agreements like the cable industry's  family tiers or broadcast and cable industry education campaigns about existing blocking mechanisms. But if that doesn't work, the FCC could take "the next least restrictive means."

Reid says Rockefeller believes his bill is "not inconsistent" with either the voluntary efforts or the Constitution. "The FCC may very well determine that these measures are sufficient and then no regulations would be needed," he added.

Reid said industry self-policing was fine, but that rather than rely on it, the senator wanted to have the "expert agency" make a decision about whether blocking technologies and labeling were working.

Christine Kurth, staffer for Senate Commerce Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), said her boss was pleased with marketplace efforts to self-regulate and educate, but said she couldn't answer whether those efforts will prove the "end all and be all."

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