Senate May Tee Up Indecency Bill


The Senate could take up an indecency bill soon, perhaps even by the end of this week.

Once the Senators have worked through a rewrite of bankruptcy legislation, it's possible the House-passed bill boosting indecency fines could be next up for a Senate vote, said a staffer with Senate Majority leader Bill Frist, who would say no more than that.

If it passed without any changes, the bill could then head for the President's desk, but it's chances of getting a clean up or down vote in the Senate are "slim to none," said one Hill source.

The House bill would up the maximum FCC station and performer fines for indecency to $500,000, bring license renewal into play, put the FCC on a shot clock for acting on complaints and require a review by the FCC and GAO of past enforcement. It would also give the FCC discretion over the amount of fines based on a station's market size, ability to pay, amount of control over the programming and other factors.

A separate Senate bill introduced by Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) that would boost indecency fines to $325,000 maximum, with a $3 million per-violation cap, has yet to make it out of committee, but there is even an outside chance that that bill could make it to the floor. 

There was talk Tuesday that if indecency is taken up, Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) might try to add provisions targeting cable and satellite indecency to either the House or Senate bills, or perhaps introduce something of his own.
Stevens has made it clear he would like to extend indecency regulation to pay services, arguing that if Congress could make cable carry broadcast stations, it ought to be able to make it stop carrying indecency.

Late Tuesday, the odds on which indecency legislation, if any, makes it to the floor were strongest on the House version, followed by a Stevens substitute, then the Brownback bill, perhaps with some Stevens language added in.