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Policy

Hollings’ Cable-Violence Provision Dropped

10/08/2004 6:41 AM Eastern

Lawmakers killed a proposal Thursday that could have banned violent programming on many cable networks between 6 a.m.-10 p.m. and called for large fines to punish transgressions.

The provision, sponsored by Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.), passed the Senate unanimously in June but was dropped Thursday along with provisions that would have scuttled new Federal Communications Commission ownership rules and increased fines for broadcast indecency.

The Hollings provision was stripped by a House-Senate conference committee that was attempting to reconcile the two Pentagon budget bills.

Hollings would have required the FCC to determine whether channel-blocking technology worked to protect children from exposure to excessive and gratuitous violence. If the agency determined that it didn’t, it could ban violent content on cable between 6 a.m.-10 p.m. -- the period when children are expected to be in the viewing audience.

Hollings’ TV-violence provision applied to cable, broadcasting and direct-broadcast satellite, but not the Internet. It exempted premium and pay-per-view fare and gave the FCC authority to expand the exemption to include news and sports events.

The House-Senate conference committee also dropped language sponsored by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) that would have allowed the FCC to fine a broadcaster up to $500,000 for each indecency violation under a $3 million-per-day cap. The agency’s current maximum fine is $32,500 per offense.

Hollings would have required the FCC to fine cable operators the same amounts for violence violations.

Hollings tried for several years to pass TV-violence legislation, and this year was the closest he came to reaching his goal. He is retiring from the Senate this year.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association opposed the Hollings amendment, saying that content restrictions on subscription-TV services ran afoul of the First Amendment.

NCTA spokesman Brian Dietz declined to comment on the demise of the Hollings legislation.

September