Compromise reached on provisions in telecommunications bill
WASHINGTON, D.C.–A congressional conference committee in early December reached agreement on a controversial telecommunications bill after resolving disputes over several provisions, including the “v- chip,” cable rates, and on-line indecency.
The U.S. Senate and House conferees adopted Rep. Edward Markey’s (D-Mass.) proposal to require every television set sold in the United States to come equipped with a “v-chip” — a computerized chip that would block programming based on an encoded content rating.
The legislation gives the television industry one year to come up with its own content ratings system and the rules for encoding and transmitting those ratings to television sets equipped with the circuitry.
Related legislation proposed by Rep. Rick White (R-Wash.), regarding restrictions on indecency over online services and the Internet, was adopted as part of the telecommunications bill with an amended clause. The new measure makes it illegal to knowingly provide “indecent” on-line material to children.
Connie Correll, a spokeswoman for White, said, “At the last minute, White’s provision which stated that ‘harmful material would not be transmitted over the Internet to minors’ was changed to ‘no indecent material would be transmitted to children’.” She added, “Now, with the change in language, we are trying to come up with a definition of indecency.”
Correll said that the measure will protect computer service providers from liability.
A formal agreement has also been reached on freeing cable television operators from federal price controls.
According to a congressional report, the House-Senate telecommunications conference committee is expected to complete action on the telecommunications bill and send it back to the legislative bodies by late December. (S.652)