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FCC Considers Regulating Violence on TV

Feb 16, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The Federal Communications Commission is considering a draft report telling Congress that the agency could go beyond regulating profanity and indecency on television to regulating when violent content appears.

The draft is in response to a letter from 39 congressmen three years ago, asking for a report on whether regulating violence would be constitutional. The draft circulating says that that it is and there is evidence that violent media content can impact kids behavior.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin said in an interview this week that any regulation of violence should extend beyond broadcast TV to also cover cable and satellite.

“We can’t just deal with the three or four broadcast channels – we have to be looking at what’s on cable as well,” he told the Associated Press.

The report makes clear that the FCC could act — and could also direct cable companies to offer either a package of non violent programming or let viewers choose a la carte channels — but would need congressional direction. The FCC would also need to carefully define “exceedingly violent programming that is harmful to children.”

Broadcast, motion picture and First Amendment groups have argued before that crafting a definition is difficult, citing whether a war scene “Saving Private Ryan” is considered excessive or not and whether other violent scenes are realistic or cartoonish.

The FCC’s indecency regulation applies only to broadcasters and allows airing of programs late at night without restriction, while imposing curbs during the day.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has announced he will introduce legislation aimed at limiting violence in the media.

Neither the National Association of Broadcasters nor the National Cable & Telecommunications Association would comment directly on the violence report as neither had seen it, but Brian Dietz, an NCTA spokesman, disputed any need for mandated a la carte.

“The cable industry understands it has an important responsibility to protect viewers from unwanted TV programming but we believe that consumers are the best judge of which content is appropriate for their household,” he said. “A mandated a la carte system is unnecessary government intrusion in a vibrant marketplace that would result in higher prices, fewer choices and less diversity in programming.”

(Editor: Romanelli)