FTC, SENATORS, AD GROUPS ARGUE OVER MEDIA VIOLENCE

Trade Organizations Charge Feds Seek Role as 'Chief National Censor'

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- As the Federal Trade Commission today announced it was expanding the way it tracks complaints about violence in the media, a collection of advertising trade groups warned Senate legislation threatens to turn the government into the "chief national censor."

Broaden its system
The FTC said it would broaden its system for tracking "complaints about the advertising, marketing, and sale of violent movies, electronic games (including video games), and music." It said the new system would enable it to "identify issues of particular concern to consumers."

The move comes a week after the Senate Commerce Committee took up legislation hiking media obscenity fines and added new limits on when violent programs can air.

V-chip
Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C. has been a major proponent for curbs on media violence, and his legislation on TV violence, called "Safe Harbor," was added to a bill raising fines levied against media companies for obscenity; it requires the Federal Communications Commission to determine whether the "V-chip" can be used to block violent programs. If the chip can't, the FCC must "prohibit violent programming when children are likely to represent a substantial portion of the viewing audience."

In a letter delivered to all senators, officials of the Association of National Advertisers, the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the American Advertising Federation questioned how the government would define "violent video programming" and also questioned whether attempts to protect children from such programming could disenfranchise adults.

The ad groups warned that the legislation "raises very serious First Amendment concerns by placing the government in the role of chief national censor."

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