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Rockefeller Promises TV Violence Legislation

Jun 26, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Decrying the “unconscionable levels of sex and gratuitous” violence on TV, Sen. Jay Rockefeller unveiled a sweeping indictment of the broadcast and cable industries and is promising to push legislation to limit violence on TV “until something happens.”
“Children today are being subjected to an unprecedented level of violent television content that is … coarsening our culture and, I fear, weakening our society as a whole,” the senator said today in unveiling his attack at a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee.
Declaring that it’s time for Congress for act, he questioned the industry’s motivation and also attacked an industry public-service campaign promoting use of the V-chip as an alternative to eliminating violent comment.
“Violent content is cheap to produce. Violent content is profitable. Violent content sells,” Sen. Rockefeller said. “To be blunt, the big media companies have placed a greater emphasis on their corporate short-term profits than on the long-term health and wellbeing of our children.”
He belittled the Tvboss.org public service ads touting the V-chip as “ineffective Band-Aids” and said they miss the point.
“Parents do not want more tools. They want the content off the air,” he said, adding that parents have too many other duties to deal with V-chips.
Tuesday’s hearing is the first from the Senate following a report from the Federal Communications Commission recommending Congress act to limit excessively violent TV.
Sen. Rockefeller is readying legislation to give the FCC sweeping new authority to regulate violence on broadcast and cable TV, much as the FCC currently regulates indecency on broadcast TV.
While the FCC and some researchers say there is clear evidence TV violence can impact some kids, media companies have questioned whether “excessively violent” can be defined and whether limiting adults’ choice of programming to protect kids would pass constitutional muster.
At today’s hearing, there was little defense of violence on TV, but also few senators enlisting to support the controversial legislation. Instead, several senators and witnesses, including Harvard University law professor Laurence Tribe and Fox Broadcast Co. President of Entertainment Peter Liguori, expressed concern about TV content, but questioned the legality of such legislation.
“There is no law that can strike from the broadcast medium everything we don’t like,” said Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H.
“We really don’t want to pass something and have it thrown out in court,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said the case for action isn’t quite so clear. “I think we have to tread a lot softer than you indicate,” he said.
Mr. Tribe, who was hired by broadcasting and cable associations, said the suggestion that defining excessive violence would be difficult was “the understatement of the century. It’s impossible.”
Mr. Liguori admitted violent scenes from TV shows played for the committee, including one from CBS’ “NCIS” that hadn’t been rated for violent content, indicated some problems with the current ratings system. However, he suggested the problem is inconsistent ratings and said the industry is working to make ratings more consistent.
He said parents have a lot of tools and information at their fingertips.
“Given the inherent difficulty of defining violence and drawing lines about what is appropriate, any attempt to regulate the depiction of violence could be found unconstitutional,” Mr. Liguori said, “and it would have a profound chilling effect on the creative community.”
FCC chairman Kevin J. Martin was supposed to testify at the hearing, but Sen. Rockefeller announced at the hearing’s start that Mr. Martin was with his wife and their critically ill newborn son.
(Editor: Horowitz)

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