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Senator wants to narrow indecency bill

Brownback says proposed version ‘too broad and too big’
/ Source: Reuters

Proposed legislation to boost fines broadcasters face for indecency violations is “too broad and too big” and needs to be narrowed for quick passage, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas said Thursday.

Brownback, a Republican, said that the legislation should get an extra push from a new study released Thursday by a parents’ group which said children’s programming contains sexual content as well as numerous violent scenes.

“We need to act on this information,” Brownback said. ”We’ve made the bill too broad and too big, and we need to narrow it to pass it.”

The House approved in early 2005 legislation to raise fines to as much as $500,000 on broadcasters and entertainers who violate decency limits on the air, up from the current maximum of $32,500 per violation.

That bill also would require communications regulators to consider decency violations when they weigh renewing a station’s license, among other provisions.

But the Senate has yet to consider legislation on the issue, and different bills are pending. Brownback has offered his own measure, which would raise fines to $325,000 per violation.

Federal regulations bar television and radio broadcast stations from airing obscene material and limit them from airing indecent material, such as profanity and sexually explicit content, except during late-night hours.

Those limits do not apply to cable or satellite services, though some in Congress have suggested including them.

To help families weed out unwanted content, TiVo Inc. , the television recording technology company, said Thursday it would offer menus of recommended family programming and its service would help subscribers add or subtract programs or channels. The firm said it would be available by mid-year.

Brownback said a study released by the Parents Television Council shows how broadcasters are complicit in marketing adult material to children, and that increased fines will “send a signal to the industry.”

The study looked at entertainment programming for children ages 5 to 10 on broadcast television and on expanded basic cable for a three-week period.

It found an average of 7.86 instances of violence per hour, 1.93 instances of verbal aggression per hour, 1.49 instances of disruptive or problematic attitudes and behavior per hour, and 0.62 instance of sexual content per hour.

“There is more violence aimed directly at young children than adults,” PTC President Brent Bozell told reporters.

Jim Dyke, executive director of the coalition TV Watch which represents television networks, said in a statement there was no substitute for parents making decisions about what their children are exposed to through television.

“We applaud any effort that gives parents more information about what’s on TV and particularly any effort that gives more control to individuals and not the government,” Dyke said.

Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health, said that television shows are a powerful influence, and parents would send broadcasters a message by turning off programs they find offensive.

“I’m not sure legislation and fining them will do anything besides raising the cost to consumers,” he said.