US Media Watchdog Considers TV Violence Curbs

20 February 2007

WASHINGTON DC: The US media regulator is reported to be mulling the introduction of controls on television violence, along the same lines as current curbs on broadcast indecency.

Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Kevin Martin believes violence could be restricted if Congress allowed cable TV to come within the watchdog's remit and is seeking support from at least two other members of the regulatory body.

Lawmakers could insist that cable TV companies allow customers to buy a la carte programming as opposed to an indivisible package of channels. Or a new law could mandate a family tier like those offered voluntarily by many cable and satellite TV providers.

The report being considered by Martin and his fellow commissioners also draws a link between TV violence and "short-term aggressive behavior" in children.

Three years ago an all-party group in the House of Representatives requested a study on whether the FCC could define "exceedingly violent programming that is harmful to children". It also asked whether the agency could regulate such programming "in a constitutional manner".

Defining violence could prove to be a major obstacle.

Comments Jonathan Rintels, executive director of the Center for Creative Voices in Media: "This is government control of creative content, and we have a real problem with that. Will it count on news or reality programming? What about sports? In hockey, will it count when the gloves come off? How about documentaries? Or will it only count on scripted TV?"

Generally, broadcasters and cable companies say parents should take responsibility for children's viewing and have sponsored a multimillion dollar advertising campaign to teach them how to use V-chip technology which blocks inappropriate content.

And legislation for a la carte viewing would also prove deeply unpopular with the cable industry.

It would be, says Brian Dietz from the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, an "unnecessary government intrusion in a vibrant marketplace that would result in higher prices, fewer choices and less diversity in programming".

Data sourced from Adweek (USA); additional content by WARC staff