- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 9, 2005

The Federal Communications Commission has added an anti-indecency activist to the staff of a key office, prompting talk that the agency is poised for another crackdown on programming it deems inappropriate for the airwaves.

Penny Young Nance joined the FCC last month as an adviser in its Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis. The office helps set an overall agenda for the agency, which regulates broadcasting, telecommunications and other technology.

Mrs. Nance did not return telephone calls.

FCC spokesman David H. Fiske said she is working part time in a post that focuses on “consumer and social issues” in broadcasting and cable. She will serve as a liaison with Capitol Hill, the industry and other activists, he said.

Indecency opponents praised Mrs. Nance’s appointment, but a frequent FCC critic said it smacks of political patronage because positions like the one Mrs. Nance has been given are usually not given to activists.

“She’s there to give the religious right and the conservative right a voice at the FCC. … It’s disquieting that someone who is so ideological has a position like this,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a consumer-advocacy group.

Mediaweek, a trade magazine, reported Mrs. Nance’s appointment Monday.

Mrs. Nance has been a vocal critic of racy programming on the airwaves. She once worked as a lobbyist for Concerned Women for America (CWA), a group that describes its mission as working “to bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy,” and recently stepped down from that organization’s board of directors.

She also founded the Kids First Coalition, a group that opposes pornography and abortion and has called on the FCC to rein in indecency. As the group’s president, she testified before Congress and was interviewed on the Fox News Channel.

She also has argued for a “family hour” on prime-time television.

“It’s about time we had a mama bear in a position of influence to help the FCC do its job,” said Robert Knight, director of the CWA’s Culture and Family Institute.

Mr. Knight said he knows Mrs. Nance and does not think she would have taken the job at the FCC if she did not intend to push the agency’s anti-indecency policies.

The FCC has not issued an indecency fine since Dec. 22, the longest lull in four years, according to a June 30 report from the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan government watchdog.

The agency proposed 12 indecency fines last year totaling $3.7 million.

Mr. Knight said his organization has been disappointed that the pace did not pick up after March, when President Bush elevated FCC Commissioner Kevin J. Martin to chairman of the five-member panel that oversees the agency.

Mr. Knight said he hopes Mrs. Nance will persuade the FCC to fine more TV broadcasters.

In 2003, Mrs. Nance was one of several activists who met with Mr. Martin to discuss indecency. After the meeting, she praised him in an interview with Broadcasting & Cable, an industry magazine.

“[Mr. Martin’s] courage in speaking publicly has in some ways empowered us to go forward and to look for ways to work with the FCC,” she said.

• Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send e-mail to cbaker@washingtontimes.com

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