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FCC Member Urges Bill to Curtail Cable Indecency

From Bloomberg News

Congress should consider a bill to curb sex and obscenity on television even after cable TV companies Monday said they planned to offer packages of family-friendly channels, a member of the Federal Communications Commission said Tuesday.

“I don’t think we’re anywhere near the point where we can say we don’t need legislation,” Commissioner Michael J. Copps, a Democrat, said at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in Washington. “Let’s keep pushing.”

Copps’ endorsement of anti-obscenity legislation reflects agency support for Republican FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin’s campaign to shield children from adult fare on television.

On Monday, a group of cable TV providers including the two largest, Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Inc., agreed to offer groupings of family-friendly channels in response to pressure from Martin.

The Senate panel, which is reviewing four bills aimed at limiting indecency on TV and radio, will not vote on any legislation this month, committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said.

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The cable companies “are making very good progress,” Stevens said after the hearing. “We’ll need to give an opportunity for these initiatives to take hold.”

Tuesday’s hearing focused on the reappointment of Copps and the appointment of Deborah Taylor Tate, a Republican, to the FCC.

Tate, a Tennessee utility regulator who is backed by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), deflected most senators’ questions, saying she wasn’t yet versed on the issues.

Stevens said he expected a committee vote on President Bush’s nominations by Thursday, and a full Senate vote by Dec. 25.

Senate confirmation of Tate, 49, and Copps, 65, would bring the FCC to a 2-2 split between Democrats and Republicans.

Bush hasn’t yet nominated anyone to fill the agency’s fifth seat, which is reserved for a Republican.

Martin on Nov. 29 urged the cable companies to consider a family tier and other options aimed at curbing indecency.

The Senate indecency bills would, among other things, require all cable companies to offer packages of family channels and increase maximum fines on over-the-air broadcasters such as Viacom Inc.'s CBS.


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