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Public Statements

Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Mr. Speaker, I plan to support this legislation, as I supported the House legislation, to clear up the public's airwaves and punish those broadcasters who violate the law and the standards of the community that they are licensed to serve.

I am perhaps the only Member of the House of Representatives who is a broadcast licensee. For 20 years, my wife and I have owned and operated radio stations in Oregon. I grew up in a pioneer broadcast family. I rise tonight, however, to express concern about the FCC's recent decisions regarding indecency and profanity.

Frankly, the decisions of the Commission leave me and many of my colleagues in the broadcast world a bit confused about where the boundaries are, which has been a problem for the Commission for many years. The Commission found that certain words, which we would find very offensive, could be used in the context of airing Saving Private Ryan. However, perhaps words that would be found less offensive could not be used in an episode of NYPD Blue.

Mr. Chairman, given the tenfold increase in fines that this legislation authorizes, I think it is exceedingly important for broadcast licensees to have a clear understanding of the rules from the FCC. So I would ask you to lend your good office to encourage the FCC to achieve clarification in these areas.

I think it is also important, Mr. Speaker, that Americans understand what we are doing here tonight only affects over-the-air public airwaves, radio and television broadcast licensees. If you think that the TV in your family room is suddenly going to have every program cleaned up, you are mistaken, because we are not allowed at this point to deal with issues involving cable television or satellite television or satellite radio. Indeed, when we began having hearings on this very issue of profanity in the radio broadcast spectrum, one of the individuals who probably caused the most ruckus on the public airwaves shifted over to satellite radio so that he could carry on there unfettered.

I realize these are subscription services, but I think for many Americans, when they catch cable television in their homes, they don't really differentiate any more about the four channels that may be public broadcast channels, over-the-air broadcasts, from those that are on up the dial for the next 400.

So they may wonder why it is that we can take this action tonight against licensees of the Federal Government. Now, cable services do have the ability to regulate individually within the home and block certain programs, so perhaps parents will take it upon themselves to self-regulate the home.

Meanwhile, broadcasters are going to need clarification when the fines are going to be increased ten-fold, and not all broadcasters are parts of conglomerates. Some are mom-and-pop operators in small communities across America who rise to the challenges of serving their communities in times of natural disaster and just in terms of community events. They will need this guidance because a fine of $32,500 today on the books could bankrupt many of those small, independent broadcasters.

Mr. Speaker, I hope you will work to clarify this so the broadcasters know the rules under which they need to operate and do not violate them unintentionally.


Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman for his leadership in this area as we clean up the public air waves and also come to standards that are clearly understood by all so that inadvertent violations do not occur. And also, a recognition of small-market broadcasters versus the big major ones where even $300,000 may seem insignificant in their revenue stream.


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