Conservatives urge Congress to block softening of TV indecency rules

Dozens of conservative family values groups urged lawmakers on Wednesday to prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from weakening its rules against indecency on broadcast television.

"We urgently request that you do all you can to stop the proposed enforcement standard, including opposing any nominee to the Federal Communications Commission who supports changing the current standard," the groups wrote in a letter to members of the Senate Commerce Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The Parents Television Council, Morality in Media, the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family and more than 70 other socially conservative groups signed the letter.

The FCC declined to comment on the letter.

In April, the commission issued a request for public comment on a proposal that would focus on penalizing only "egregious" indecency cases. The proposal would ban "deliberate and repetitive use [of expletives] in a patently offensive manner."

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The plan would be a shift away from the agency's past policy, adopted during the Bush administration, of penalizing even "fleeting expletives."

The "fleeting expletives" standard resulted in years of legal battles over curse words uttered during live awards shows and sporting events. The Supreme Court upheld the FCC's indecency power in a decision last year.

In their letter, the conservative groups said the FCC's proposal would "completely undermine" the federal law banning indecent content on the airwaves.

They accused the FCC under Chairman Julius Genachowski of being "derelict" in its duty to enforce the indecency law. Genachowski, who plans to step down in the coming days, issued no indecency fines during his four-year tenure. He had noted that prior to the Supreme Court's ruling, the agency's authority was in legal limbo due to lawsuits claiming the policy violated constitutional free speech rights.

President Obama has said he will nominate technology investor Tom Wheeler to replace Genachowski. The Senate Commerce Committee could hold hearings on his nomination later this month.