House Passes Anti-Indecency Measure

WASHINGTON The U.S. House in a 379-35 vote on Wednesday passed a bill to increase fines for broadcast indecency tenfold, sending the measure on for the president’s signature.

The bill, which originated in the Senate, would increase maximum fines for broadcast indecency to $325,000. It leaves unchanged federal standards for judging whether programming is indecent.

The bill lacks measures included in earlier House-passed legislation that stalled in the Senate, such as lowering barriers to fining performers and jeopardizing broadcast licenses after three offenses.

Before Wednesday, Congress had managed to pass no legislation addressing broadcast indecency despite the widespread furor provoked by singer Janet Jackson’s exposure at the 2004 Super Bowl broadcast on CBS. Since then the Federal Communications Commission has proposed record fines totaling in the millions of dollars against major broadcast networks.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who first introduced legislation to increase penalties in January 2004, welcomed the commencement late Tuesday of floor debate on the Senate’s measure. “We are entering the home stretch in getting the filth and triple-X smut off the public airwaves,” Upton said.

Previous versions of indecency legislation passed the 435-seat House by margins exceeding 350 votes.