US ad groups have hit out at Senate proposals to prevent children seeing violent TV programming.

The Association of National Advertisers, the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the American Advertising Federation have written to lawmakers arguing that legislation being considered in the Senate would turn the government into the "chief national censor".

The trade bodies are concerned by language inserted into anti-indecency legislation by the Senate Commerce Committee earlier this month. According to this measure, the Federal Communications Commission would be required to investigate whether a 'V-chip' could block violent content; if it could not, the FCC would have to step in to "prohibit violent programming when children are likely to represent a substantial portion of the viewing audience."

In their letter, the ad groups argued that this so-called 'safe harbor' measure -- inserted into the bill by Senator Ernest Hollings (Democrat, South Carolina) -- "raises very serious First Amendment concerns by placing the government in the role of chief national censor."

The industry groups queried how regulators would define violent content and warned that the legislation could disenfranchise adults.

The bill, claimed ANA executive vp Dan Jaffe, could "wipe out a wide range of programming, from cartoons to dramas to police shows, based on the subjective definitions of the FCC."

However, it is yet to be decided whether the Senate will adopt the Commerce Committee's measure or take up the anti-indecency legislation passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month [WAMN: 15-Mar-04]. The latter bill includes no safe harbor proposals.

• Separately, the Federal Trade Commission announced it is expanding its procedure for tracking "complaints about the advertising, marketing, and sale of violent movies, electronic games (including video games), and music." It believes a revamped system will "identify issues of particular concern to consumers."

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff