By agreeing to independent monitoring of their programs for violence, the four broadcast networks and most cable programmers convinced Sen. Paul Simon (D., Ill.), their leading congressional critic, that self-regulation offers the best hope of a feasible, legally viable solution. And Richard Garvey, chairman of the Association of National Advertisers, endorsed the monitoring plan as workable and far preferable to government intervention.
The resolution followed months of dialogue between Sen. Simon and the TV and film industries, and was acceptable to the senator because both broadcast and cable signed off on it, a spokesman said. The spokesman also said Sen. Simon would not only withdraw his own legislative proposal, which called for the National Institute of Mental Health to monitor TV programming, but would also oppose the nine other pending bills.
But any thought that the monitoring proposal would cool the ardor of other anti-violence lawmakers quickly disintegrated. Some questioned the likely efficacy of the concept, which lacks any enforcement authority and will evaluate violent shows subjectively and in the context of competing programming.
So one by one, other lawmakers said they would press ahead with their various proposals, which range from periodic reporting of violent shows and their sponsors to TV technology that blocks out unwanted programs.
Rep. Edward Markey (D., Mass.) said he would push for adoption of his plan to require installation of a microchip in all new TV sets that will allow parents to block programs from children's view. He said the monitoring proposal is important but only as part of a broader package that would include program ratings and a so-called V-chip.
Likewise, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D., N.D.) said he would continue to press for legislation to require quarterly reporting by an independent monitor of the most violent shows and their sponsors. He is also sponsor of a Senate version of Rep. Markey's V-chip legislation.
"Sen. Dorgan doesn't think what was announced goes far enough," a spokeswoman said.
Still, the monitoring proposal, even in the sketchy form outlined last week, was hailed as a major step forward in fighting violence.
"We're encouraged by the presumption of responsibility by the networks and program providers ... and by their talk of a resolution," Mr. Garvey said. "All along, we've maintained that this should not be government-regulated and that the more the solution was in the hands of the providers, the better it would be."
Mr. Garvey, VP-marketing at Lego Systems, said a major concern of advertisers is how to define TV violence.
"If they put `Schindler's List' on TV, it would be highly rated and violent and would probably pass some advertiser guidelines but not others," Mr. Garvey said. "Our problem is that we don't want to be on an advertiser blacklist for sponsoring a program with violence that also has social value."
"It's hard to define what gratuitous violence is," he said, "and I'm not sure that if we can't define it, can a government agency do it?"
Carla Michelotti, senior VP-associate general counsel at Leo Burnett Co., Chicago, applauded the solution based on self-regulation.
"Advertisers never asked for violence in programming or encouraged it. This is a broadcasting issue," she said.
Several major advertisers declined to comment on the violence resolution between Sen. Simon and the TV industry.
Virtually every cable programmer, except USA Network, agreed to independent monitoring, as well as a ratings system, endorsement of the V-chip technology and a parental advisory system.
That went considerably further than the broadcast networks, which agreed to the monitoring idea but not ratings or the V-chip idea.
"We hope that these actions ... will persuade Congress that action in this area ... is unnecessary," said Marty Franks, CBS VP. "We are opposed to all legislative proposals; each has something to recommend it ... but we are not able to overcome our constitutional concerns with them.
"Who the monitor will be-whether there will be one for broadcast and another for cable or just one for both-and how it will work, I don't know. I assure you that it will be real, credible and will proceed with due deliberate speed to set it up. It will be fully in place for the '94-95 season."
Mr. Franks said he believes network advertisers "will be supportive of this voluntary step."
Sen. Simon said he is willing to see how the monitoring works for up to three years before deciding whether the industry's voluntary proposal would work.
"I've made no commitment that I won't come back in a couple of years with legislation," he said, "but my instinct tells me that this will work."