America's broadcasting industry on Friday unveiled a $300 million (€247.9m; £169.8m) public service initiative to communicate to viewers the controls already at parents' disposal to block children's access to undesirable TV programs and broadcast movies.

The announcement was made by former Motion Picture Association of America chairman Jack Valenti during an ongoing hearing into decency issues by the US Senate Commerce Committee.

The hearings are aimed both at developing legislation and encouraging the broadcasting industry to further tighten its existing self-regulation.

Valenti told lawmakers the campaign - to be managed by private, non-profit body the Ad Council - will run for eighteen months, with public service announcements aired not only on cable and broadcast TV but also in movie theaters, satellite channels and in consumer-electronics stores.

The industry is clearly rattled by threats of legislation and cooperation over the campaign is unprecedented. Says Valenti: "It's the first time we have seen this unity. It will be all over cable, satellite, the national networks. It is the first time we have come together like this. I am convinced we are going to make a real impression."

Ad Council president/ceo Peggy Conlon said the level of support could set a public service campaign record if all the promised media time donations materialize.

Seemingly sensitive at suggestions the Ad Council should not be involved in what is essentially a commercial lobbying initiative, Conlon defended the use of the Ad Council's voluntary resources for a campaign serving the commercial interests of the broadcasting industry.

She insists that that despite any political motivation, the campaign's message will be "consistent" with the Ad Council's long-term commitment toward healthier children.

"Media has a huge impact on children and there are a lot of tools out there from a technology and parenting standpoint that can be used by parents to protect their children from age-inappropriate material," she said.

As with all Ad Council campaigns, agencies will donate their time, although the broadcast industry will foot the bill for airtime costs and production expenses.

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