Bill Would Apply Indecency Fines To Cable, Satellite

Legislation also aims to curb violent programming.

In a Senate bill introduced March 14, federal lawmakers dropped the indecency bomb on cable and satellite radio and TV. They've also set their sights on curbing violent programming on all TV services.

The Indecent and Gratuitous and Excessive Violence Broadcasting Control Act of 2005, S.616, would subject cable and satellite radio and TV to indecency rules that currently apply only to broadcast media. The bill was introduced by Sens. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.

The bill would also authorize the Federal Communications Commission to require broadcast, cable and satellite stations to post 30-second, full-screen warnings that violent or indecent programming is to follow, both before a show and 30 minutes into the show.

The bill would additionally increase the maximum fine for a single indecency incident to $500,000 (subject to a cap of $3 million) and make violent programming also subject to the fine. The FCC would be given latitude to double fines for egregious cases, such as incidents in which the offensive material was scripted in advance. The commission would also have the authority to reduce fines when appropriate for small and locally owned broadcasters.

It also calls on the FCC to study the effectiveness of the V-chip, and to come up with a better parental tool if the V-chip is not working. The bill also calls on broadcasters to reinstate the once-common voluntary code of conduct.

The bill comes just days after Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, revealed to reporters that he plans to drop a bill soon that would require the cable and satellite industries to screen pre-viewing program ratings similar to those of the movie industry to help parents protect their children.