House Easily Approves Broadcast Decency Act

On March 11, by a vote of 391 to 22, the House overwhelmingly approved the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act (H.R. 3717). The bill would increase the penalties for violations by television and radio broadcasters of the prohibitions against transmissions of obscene, indecent, and profane material. The bill raises the maximum penalty for broadcast stations, networks, and performers to $500,000 for each violation. By significantly increasing the (Federal Communications Commission (CC) fines, sponsors hope the bill will force networks and individuals to do more than just apologize for airing indecent material. Although the indecency issue was highlighted during the Super Bowl halftime show this year, and more recently by some Howard Stern antics, the legislation had been introduced earlier. The bill had 140 cosponsors and was considered very “bi-partisan” as it was supported by the majority of both Republicans and Democrats. However, a few liberals still took the debate as an opportunity to bash President Bush and his administration. In support of the bill, Rep. Sue Myrick (R.-N.C.) said, “Broadcast airwaves belong to the American people, not to the networks,” correctly recounting the original reason for federal regulation of the airwaves during the Hoover Administration. “So I believe it is time for Congress to defend and protect America’s parents and children and pass a tough bill to ensure decency on the airwaves,” she said. Addressing the responsibility that comes with being entrusted to broadcast over public airwaves, liberal Rep. Anthony Weiner (D.-N.Y.) said that ” if we do not regulate what people can see and hear in these forums, children in particular will be exposed to material that is completely inappropriate.” Weiner nonetheless opposed the bill. He also accused President Bush of using the bill for political ends. “We must not allow this focus on indecency to become a mission instead to do everything possible to gain favor with the FCC and their ultimate leader, President Bush. Being contrary to the government and offensive to the President and his campaign donors should not fall into the category of indecent material,” Weiner warned. It is fairly unclear what he was referring to in this statement, although he attempted to draw a connection to Clear Channel’s taking offender Howard Stern off the air in the political “battlegrounds of Ohio and Florida.” Weiner hinted that Clear Channel has supported the Bush Administration in the past and thus, they must be part of a conspiracy to remove from the air all those who may dissent from the right-wing view. In opposition to the bill, Rep. Henry Waxman (D.-Calif.) said that it only “opens the door to more government interference in free speech on the airwaves” and that Republicans had prevented Democrats from addressing the concentration of the media. Some conservatives found it refreshing to hear a liberal like Waxman speak against government interference in any aspect of commerce. “We are looking to the individual who willfully and intentionally defies the law, to be held accountable,” said Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.). “There are some who claim that we are toeing the line of censorship. Governments should not be the decency police, but when laws are defied, we are required to step in and enforce the law.” A “yes” vote was a vote in favor of the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, to increase fines for broadcast indecency. A “no” vote was a vote against the bill.

For the Bill: 391 Against the Bill: 22
REPUBLICANS FOR: 218 Aderholt Akin Bachus Baker Ballenger Barrett (SC) Bartlett (MD) Barton (TX) Bass Beauprez Bereuter Biggert Bilirakis Bishop (UT) Blackburn Blunt Boehlert Boehner Bonilla Bonner Bono Boozman Bradley (NH) Brady (TX) Brown (SC) Brown-Waite, Ginny Burgess Burns Burr Burton (IN) Buyer Calvert Camp Cannon Cantor Capito Carter Castle Chabot Chocola Coble Cole Collins Cox Crane Crenshaw Cubin Culberson Cunningham Davis, Jo Ann Davis, Tom Deal (GA) DeLay DeMint Diaz-Balart, L. Diaz-Balart, M. Dreier Duncan Dunn Ehlers Emerson English Everett Feeney Ferguson Flake Foley Forbes Franks (AZ) Frelinghuysen Gallegly Garrett (NJ) Gerlach Gilchrest Gillmor Gingrey Goode Goodlatte Goss Granger Graves Green (WI) Greenwood Gutknecht Hall Harris Hart Hastings (WA) Hayes Hayworth Hefley Hensarling Herger Hobson Hoekstra Hostettler Houghton Hulshof Hunter Hyde Isakson Issa Istook Jenkins Johnson, Sam Johnson (CT) Johnson (IL) Jones (NC) Keller Kelly Kennedy (MN) King (IA) Kingston Kirk Kline Knollenberg Kolbe LaHood Latham LaTourette Leach Lewis (KY) Linder LoBiondo Lucas (OK) Manzullo McCotter McCrery McHugh McInnis McKeon Mica Miller, Gary Miller (MI) Moran (KS) Murphy Musgrave Myrick Nethercutt Neugebauer Ney Northup Norwood Nunes Nussle Osborne Ose Otter Oxley Pearce Pence Peterson (PA) Petri Pickering Pitts Platts Pombo Porter Portman Pryce (OH) Putnam Quinn Radanovich Ramstad Regula Rehberg Renzi Reynolds Rogers (AL) Rogers (KY) Rogers (MI) Rohrabacher Ros-Lehtinen Royce Ryan (WI) Ryun (KS) Saxton Schrock Sensenbrenner Sessions Shadegg Shaw Shays Sherwood Shimkus Shuster Simmons Simpson Smith (MI) Smith (NJ) Smith (TX) Souder Stearns Sullivan Sweeney Tancredo Taylor (NC) Terry Thomas Thornberry Tiahrt Tiberi Toomey Turner (OH) Upton Vitter Walden (OR) Walsh Wamp Weldon (FL) Weldon (PA) Weller Whitfield Wilson (NM) Wilson (SC) Wolf Young (AK) Young (FL) DEMOCRATS FOR: 172 Abercrombie Alexander Allen Andrews Baca Baldwin Ballance Becerra Berry Bishop (GA) Bishop (NY) Blumenauer Boswell Boucher Boyd Brady (PA) Brown, Brown (OH) Capps Capuano Cardin Carson (IN) Carson (OK) Case Chandler Clyburn Cooper Corrine Costello Cramer Crowley Cummings Davis (AL) Davis (CA) Davis (FL) Davis (TN) DeGette Delahunt DeLauro Deutsch Dicks Dingell Doggett Dooley (CA) Doyle Edwards Emanuel Engel Eshoo Etheridge Evans Farr Fattah Filner Ford Frank (MA) Frost Gephardt Gonzalez Gordon Green (TX) Gutierrez Hastings (FL) Hill Hinchey Hinojosa Hoeffel Holden Hollen Holt Hooley (OR) Hoyer Inslee Israel Jackson (IL) Jefferson Johnson, E. B. Kanjorski Kaptur Kennedy (RI) Kildee Kilpatrick Kind Kleczka Lampson Langevin Lantos Larsen (WA) Larson (CT) Levin Lipinski Lowey Lucas (KY) Lynch Majette Markey Marshall Matheson Matsui McCarthy (MO) McCarthy (NY) McCollum McDermott McGovern McIntyre McNulty Meehan Meek (FL) Meeks (NY) Menendez Michaud Millender-McDonald Miller, George Miller (NC) Mollohan Moore Moran (VA) Murtha Napolitano Neal (MA) Oberstar Obey Olver Ortiz Owens Pallone Pascrell Pastor Payne Pelosi Peterson (MN) Pomeroy Price (NC) Rahall Rangel Reyes Ross Rothman Roybal-Allard Ruppersberger Rush Ryan (OH) Sabo Sánchez, Linda Sandlin Schiff Scott (GA) Skelton Slaughter Smith (WA) Snyder Solis Spratt Stenholm Strickland Stupak Tanner Tauscher Taylor (MS) Thompson (CA) Thompson (MS) Tierney Towns Turner (TX) Udall (NM) Van Visclosky Watson Watt Weiner Wexler Woolsey Wu Wynn INDEPENDENT FOR: 1 Sanders REPUBLICANS AGAINST: 1 Paul DEMOCRATS AGAINST: 21 Ackerman Baird Berman Clay Grijalva Harman Honda Jackson-Lee (TX) Jones (OH) Kucinich Lee Lewis (GA) Lofgren Nadler Schakowsky Scott (VA) Serrano Stark Velázquez Waters Waxman

Not Voting: 19

Doolittle Fossella Gibbons King (NY) Lewis (CA) Miller (FL) Tauzin Wicker Bell Berkley Cardoza Conyers Davis (IL) DeFazio John Maloney Rodriguez Sanchez, Loretta Udall (CO) .