FCC Hires Anti-Porn Zealot

    An outspoken anti-pornography zealot has been hired by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to advise the agency on consumer issues involving the cable and broadcast industry, which has been under scrutiny for airing racy material.

    Penny Nance, who previously ran the “Kids First Coalition” which advocates on the issues of adoption, crime, pornography, abortion and computer safety, has been hired as a part-time adviser in the FCC’s Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis, an agency spokesman said.

    Nance, a self-described religious conservative, has testified before Congress and has been interviewed on cable television about Internet child pornography. She did not return calls seeking comment.

    A FCC spokesman was unable to say when she was hired or what her specific duties would be beyond providing advice and acting as a liaison to Congress, public interest groups and the industry. Her new job was first reported by Mediaweek.

    The FCC this year has not yet proposed any fines against broadcasters though complaints are pending. In 2004, under then FCC Chairman Michael Powell, the agency proposed fines totaling almost $8 million.

    One of the most recent complaints was by a parents group upset that the ABC television network failed to censor a swear word during one broadcast of the Live 8 concert, an event aimed at drawing attention to poverty in poor nations.

    Federal regulations bar the broadcast of obscene material and limit indecent content, such as sexually explicit or profanity laden material, to late night hours when children are less likely to be in the audience.

    Spokesmen for the National Association of Broadcasters and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association declined to comment on Nance’s new job.

    FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin became chairman in March and immediately prodded the cable industry to address concerns by parents worried about the content of programing.

    The cable industry has responded with a $250 million campaign to better inform parents about their options to control what their children watch and the television and radio industry plans to issue guidelines to stations this summer.

    Congress has been contemplating increasing the maximum fine for indecent incidents on broadcast television and radio to as much $500,000 per violation. The current maximum is $32,500.

    The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill to raise fines but legislation in the Senate has not been considered.