As expected, Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) will be taking over the helm of the Senate Commerce Committee in the 111th Congress, as its 110th leader, Daniel Inouye (D-HI) slides over to the top of the Appropriations Committee.
“As I begin my fifth term in the United States Senate I am proud to have been asked by my colleagues to become the chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and I am honored to accept,” he said. “The Commerce Committee has a major role to play in rebuilding our economy and our sagging infrastructure, making America more competitive, and delivering prosperity for families in West Virginia and throughout the United States.”
Although Rockefeller has not been particular in the forefront of broadcast issues in the Senate – that job has largely been handled by Byron Dorgan (D-ND) – he was the sponsor of the recently-passed analog night light bill. He also introduced S. 1780, the "Protecting Children from Indecent Programming Act." Along with Ted Stevens (R-AK), Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Dan Inouye (D-HI), a bill "…to require the FCC, in enforcing its regulations concerning the broadcast of indecent programming, to maintain a policy that a single word or image may be considered indecent." It passed a committee voice vote without objection (or even comment) but has gone nowhere since.
RBR/TVBR observation: It is the rare legislator who will stand up for freedom of speech while others are standing on their soapboxes with their best megaphones “protecting children,” and we can’t think of any at all in the Senate. Unless there is a major broadcast incident along the lines of the Janet Jackson incident that kindles the anti-indecency flames, we suspect this issue will be allowed to play out in the courts, not in the Capitol. Bottom line: Commerce under Rockefeller figures to run almost exactly as it did under Inouye.