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PTC Willing to Accept Senate Indecency Bill

May 23, 2006  •  Post A Comment

An executive of the Parents Television Council said Tuesday his group will be satisfied if the House of Representatives opts to end the debate over indecent TV programming by dropping its own legislation and accepting a Senate bill that would simply raise the cap on federal fines to $325,000.

“[The Senate legislation] accomplishes the fundamental goal of making meaningful the fines for violation of broadcast indecency laws,” Dan Isett, PTC’s director of corporate and governmental affairs, said in an interview Tuesday.

The Senate cleared the way for a legislative resolution of the long-pending debate over indecency when it unanimously approved a measure last week that would raise the cap on Federal Communications Commission fines to $325,000 from the current $32,500.

A bill approved by the House last year would raise the cap to $500,000, and also includes provisions that would clear the way for the FCC to fine on-air talent for infractions-not just the broadcast licensees-and would allow the agency to revoke the licenses of repeat offenders.

Under standard legislative operating procedures, leaders from the Senate and the House would meet in conference to iron out the differences between their bills before sending a compromise measure to the White House for the president’s signature.

PTC’s blessing is important because it is the organization that has been widely credited for keeping the debate about off-color programming stoked at the FCC and on Capitol Hill.

According to Mr. Isett, key lawmakers are concerned that the controversial provisions in the House bill could stymie legislation this year.

“The consensus is for raising the fines, and [lawmakers are] willing to accept two-thirds of a loaf,” said Blair Levin, an analyst for Stifel Nicolaus.

Spokesmen for the key legislators involved in the ultimate decision — Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee; and Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee — declined comment.