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FCC Urges Congress to Curb Violence in Media

Apr 25, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Saying excessively violent TV is hurting kids and content ratings and calling the V-chip “insufficient” or “ineffective,” the Federal Communications Commission is urging Congress to take “action” to regulate violent programming, but kicking to Congress the decision on what action and what’s violent.

The FCC did suggest that any regulation apply to cable as well as broadcast TV.

“There is strong evidence that exposure to violence in the media can increase aggressive behavior, at least in the short term,” the commissioners said in a unanimous 22-page report on violent programming.

The report also mentions violent commercials as an issue, but takes no stand on their regulation.

The controversial report-it drew immediate denunciations by broadcast and civil rights groups-also concludes that it is possible for Congress to craft both a definition of “excessively violent” and an action that would pass muster with the courts.

The FCC offered a variety of possibilities for regulation, including imposing a new family hour, channeling violent content to certain times of day, imposing government-required violent content ratings and adding a la carte, family-friendly tiers on cable.

However, the report did not support any one approach, prompting two FCC commissioners, Democrat Jonathan Adelstein and Republican Robert McDowell, to suggest it didn’t go far enough.

Mr. McDowell called the report “well intentioned,” but said he would have preferred a more thorough study. He also said he thought it fell short of the request by 39 members of Congress asking for the FCC study. Mr. Adelstein said he agrees with the report’s conclusion that Congress should act, but said the report is not clear enough on what “excessive violence” is being criticized or what should be regulated.

“The problem is that it is not clear from reading which if any primetime shows are being recommended for regulation. Are we saying ‘Law and Order’ should be banned during hours when children are watching? It is anyone’s guess after reading the report,” he said.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin called the study “a very strong report” and noted that it represented all five FCC commissioners’ view that excessively violent content was problematic and their recommendation to Congress that “something needs to be done.”

The report drew immediate praise from Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who has been pushing for regulation of violent content. He commended the FCC and said he will be reviewing the report for possible legislation.

Broadcasters and civil rights groups were strongly critical.

“Simple-sounding solutions, such as a la carte regulation of cable TV packages, are misguided and would endanger cable’s high-quality family-friendly programming, leaving parents and children with fewer viewing options,” said a spokesman for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the FCC recommendations “political pandering.”

“The government should not replace parents as decision makers in America’s living rooms,” the ACLU said. “There are some things the government does well, but deciding what is aired and when on television is not one of them.”

NBC Universal said in a statement that, while it hadn’t fully examined the report, “by regulating ‘violent content’ without clear, objective and consistent standards, the FCC will in effect threaten the wide range of programming enjoyed by American audiences, including the two-thirds of U.S. TV households that have no children under 18.”

(Editor: Horowitz)