WASHINGTON A U.S. senator on Thursday
introduced legislation that would allow regulators to follow
through on a new rule that says expletives uttered on broadcast
television are a violation of TV decency standards.
The bill introduced by Democratic Sen. John Rockefeller, of
West Virginia, would authorize the Federal Communications
Commission to take action in cases where the agency finds that
a single expletive was uttered fleetingly.
At issue is an FCC ruling in March 2006, in which the
agency concluded that News Corp.'s Fox television network had
violated decency rules when expletives were uttered by singer
Cher during the 2002 Billboard Music Awards broadcast and
actress Nicole Richie during the 2003 awards.
"We have to be able to protect our kids from these types of
words or images," said Steven Broderick, a spokesman for
Rockefeller. "If the FCC can't do that, how are they supposed
to be able to do their job?"
The legislation is a response to a June 4 ruling by a
federal appeals court in New York, which overturned the FCC and
concluded the agency had been "arbitrary and capricious" in
setting the new "fleeting" indecency standard.
Broderick said the bill has the support of Senate Commerce
Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, of Hawaii. He said Inouye is
expected to hold a hearing on the issue, possibly as early as
The bill also has the support of Republican Sen. Sam
Brownback, of Kansas, who had sought unsuccessfully to insert a
similar provision into an appropriations bill on Tuesday.
No fines were imposed but Fox challenged the decision to
the appeals court, arguing that the government's decency
standard was unclear, violated free speech protections and that
the rulings had contradicted findings in past cases.
The FCC under the Bush administration embarked on a
crackdown of indecent content on broadcast TV and radio in 2004
after pop star Janet Jackson briefly exposed her bare breast
during the broadcast of that year's Super Bowl halftime show.
A few weeks after that incident, the FCC reversed an
earlier staff decision and ruled that the fleeting use of an
expletive by U2 rock star Bono during a 2003 NBC broadcast was