UPDATE: Ensign Deals on Decency Standards

Sen. John Ensign (R.-Nev.) puzzled conservatives last Thursday when he asked for all broadcast decency provisions to be dropped from a major bill pending in conference committee. But today he reversed course, announcing in a press release that he has negotiated a compromise that will leave those provisions in the Department of Defense Authorization bill (HR 4200), which is expected to emerge from conference committee later this week.

Ensign originally co-sponsored and voted for some of the broadcast decency provisions to be included in the defense bill. Last week, he suddenly asked senior colleagues in a letter to remove them in the House-Senate conference committee–on the same day the conference committee first discussed a compromise.

Ensign announced the new compromise today–which includes several terms favored by social conservatives–hours after Human Events reported that he was trying to have them removed from the bill.

Had the provisions been removed, then no broadcast decency laws would have passed this year.

According to Ensign’s press release, the new compromise includes a 2,000% increase in fines levied against television stations that air indecent material for each offense.

“In addition to establishing higher fines, the new language requires the FCC to adhere to a strict timeline when hearing complaints, requires an annual FCC report to Congress and calls for the National Association of Broadcasters to re-establish a family viewing policy,” the release states.