FCC to Congress: Regulate Violence on TV

Also Pushes For 'a la Carte' Family-Friendly Cable Plans

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- The Federal Communications Commission urged Congress to take action to regulate violent TV programming. But the agency left it to Congress to decide how such regulation would take place and what constitutes the definition of "excessively violent" programming.
FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin: 'Something needs to be done.'
FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin: 'Something needs to be done.'

The FCC, which yesterday issed a 22-page report on the subject, said any regulation should also apply to cable not only to broadcast TV. The report also singles out violent commercials, but makes no mention of advertising regulation.

Pass muster with courts
The controversial report -- broadcast and civil rights groups immediately denounced the findings -- concluded that it is possible for Congress to craft a definition of "excessively violent" along with legislation that would hold up in court.

The FCC offered a variety of regulatory actions Congress could take: impose a new family hour; air violent content to certain times of day; impose government-required content ratings for violence; and add "a la carte" family-friendly tiers on cable. But the report didn't specifically call for any one of these actions to be implemented, prompting two FCC commissioners, Democrat Jonathan Adelstein and Republican Robert McDowell, to say the report was too vague.

"The problem is that it is not clear from reading which, if any, prime-time shows are being recommended for regulation. Are we saying 'Law and Order' should be banned during hours when children are watching? It is anyone's guess after reading the report," Mr. Adelstein said.

'Very strong report'
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, however, called the study a "very strong report" and said it represented all five FCC commissioners' views that excessively violent content was problematic and their unanimous recommendation to Congress that "something needs to be done."

"There is strong evidence that exposure to violence in the media can increase aggressive behavior, at least in the short term," the FCC report read.

The report drew immediate praise from Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who has pushed for regulation of violent content. He commended the FCC and said he will review the report for possible legislation.

Opposed to a la carte
Broadcasters, broadcast groups and civil rights groups were strongly critical of the recommendations. Broadcast and cable groups have repeatedly said instituting a la carte cable tiers, in which consumers could decide which channels they wanted, as opposed to buying a package of channels which might include some they didn't want, would undermine the economics of the cable industry.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the FCC recommendations "political pandering."

"The government should not replace parents as decision makers in America's living rooms. There are some things the government does well, but deciding what is aired and when on television is not one of them," the ACLU said in a statement.
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