TV violence returning to front burner

Aug 27, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Lawmakers in Washington are preparing to tackle concerns about violent television images, the marketing of adult-rated content to kids and leaks to the media when they return to work after Labor Day.
Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., is following through on his pledge to make his so-called safe-harbor legislation, which relegates violent TV shows to late-night hours, a top priority.
The lawmaker, who became head of the Senate Commerce Committee in June, tentatively plans to hold a Sept. 25 hearing on the bill, but the date could change. The Senate and House will reconvene on Sept. 4 and Sept. 5, respectively, following Congress’ summer recess.
The senator has reintroduced his measure several times over the years and it has passed the Senate Commerce panel before, but it may now get a boost from the fact that Sen. Hollings is the committee chairman.
Broadcasters strongly oppose the measure, arguing that it violates their First Amendment rights and puts the government in the role of dictating which programming is appropriate for viewers.
Some lawmakers, such as Sen. John McCain of Arizona, ranking Republican on the panel, have raised constitutional concerns as well.
Also on the horizon is yet another Federal Trade Commission report on the marketing of violent and vulgar content to kids.
This latest report is expected in either October or November, a source said, and will examine the marketing plans of movie, record and video-game companies in an effort to gauge whether they’ve ended their practice of pitching adult-rated entertainment to youngsters.
The upcoming report, and similar ones issued in September 2000 and April 2001, were requested by a bipartisan group of senators.
Meanwhile, a battle is shaping up in Congress over federal “leaks” legislation that may be reintroduced by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.
In its most recent form, the bill prohibited the unauthorized leaking of classified government information by current or former government employees and threatened to slap them with fines for violating the restrictions.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, headed by Rep. Bob Graham, D-Fla., will hold a Sept. 5 hearing on the issue. Sen. Shelby is the ranking GOP member on the panel.
The Society of Professional Journalists opposes the measure, arguing it would limit information to the public and could cause legal problems for journalists, such as grand jury subpoenas.
“This kind of legislation essentially makes a journalist who receives classified information an accessory to a felony,” said Ian Marquand, SPJ’s Freedom of Information chairman and special projects editor at KPAX-TV, a CBS affiliate in Missoula, Mont.
Among the invited witnesses is Walter Isaacson, chairman and CEO of CNN News Group, who would be on a panel of media executives testifying against the bill. Sen. Shelby will decide after the hearing whether to reintroduce his measure.