First Amendment topicsAbout the First Amendment
News Story
Government must act to curb TV violence, says Sen. Rockefeller

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Big media companies that include graphic violence in their programs are more concerned about short-term profits than the long-term health of children, and government should intervene, a senator said yesterday.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said he would push legislation in the coming weeks to limit violent content in the media.

"I fear that graphic violent programming has become so pervasive and has been shown to be so harmful, we are left with no choice but to have the government step in," Rockefeller said yesterday at a meeting of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

"To be blunt, the big media companies have placed a greater emphasis on their corporate short-term profits than on the long-term health and well-being of our children," Rockefeller said.

Others on the panel, including ranking minority member Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, were unenthusiastic.

"I think we have to tread a lot softer than you indicate," Stevens said. He said he was concerned about First Amendment implications of any legislation and the possibility that Congress might overreach and pass a law that would be invalidated in court.

The hearing included a brief video montage of clips of graphic scenes of violence and rape played for the packed committee room and compiled by the Parents Television Council.

The issue of television violence has gotten more attention lately. In April the Federal Communications Commission released a report urging action on the issue, and laying out a number of options Congress could pursue if it were to write legislation.

Among the chief recommendations was requiring the cable television industry to offer programs on an "a la carte" basis, something FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has long supported. Such a system would allow parents to avoid paying for and receiving channels that contain content they find objectionable.

Rockefeller, in a bill he offered during the last Congress, did not support that proposal, but the senator's spokesman said before the hearing that "every option is on the table."

One thing the FCC did not do in its report was define the meaning of "excessively violent programming that is harmful to children" which would be at the core of any legislative initiative.

Witnesses at the hearing included Peter Liguori, president of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting Co., which produces the show "24."

Liguori said that there was "no causal link" between television violence and violence in young people, an issue that has been hotly debated. "Without a causal link, we cannot justify imposing content limits on our media," he said.

The broadcast executive voiced the industry's oft-repeated view that parents are the first line of defense when it comes to protecting their children from violent content on television.

Laurence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard University representing a group called the "ad hoc media coalition," cautioned the panel about pursuing legislation, urging them not to "sacrifice free speech on the altar of protecting children."

Rockefeller chaired the meeting at the request of regular Chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, who was not present. Inouye, in previous statements has expressed support for an anti-TV violence law.


Cable execs decry government regulation

Lawmakers urged to ignore 'vocal and well-funded minority groups.' 05.09.07

Senate panel moves to restore FCC indecency policy
In bid to counteract 2nd Circuit ruling, committee approves bill that would allow agency to fine television, radio broadcasters for airing profanities, even if they are fleeting references. 07.20.07

Congressmen seek to shield kids from violent movies on planes
Proposed Family Friendly Flights Act calls for creation of sections on commercial flights where there would not be any publicly viewable movie screens. 09.26.07

FCC wins Lifetime Muzzle award
Agency garners dubious distinction — only 2nd one given in awards' 17-year history — for 'inconsistent' application of broadcast-indecency guidelines. 04.09.08

FTC media-violence report acknowledges First Amendment
By Tony Mauro Commissioners say state of constitutional law limits what government can do, entertainment industry needs to do more self-regulation. 05.07.07

TV violence: more program information would be better than regulation
By Gene Policinski Just as with judging sexual imagery and utterances that may be indecent, there are practical problems in defining what depictions of violence cross the line. 05.06.07

FCC chairman pans common-sense ruling on ‘fleeting expletives’
By Gene Policinski In case involving Cher, Nicole Richie, 2nd Circuit decision won't unleash torrent of televised indecency that agency says it fears. 06.17.07

Timeline: TV, regulation and broadcast violence

Online symposium: TV violence & the FCC

Violence & media

News summary page
View the latest news stories throughout the First Amendment Center Online.

print this   Print

Last system update: Thursday, August 21, 2008 | 19:52:36
About this site
About the First Amendment
About the First Amendment Center
First Amendment programs
State of the First Amendment

First Reports
Supreme Court
First Amendment publications
First Amendment Center history
Freedom Sings™
First Amendment

Congressional Research Service reports
Guest editorials
FOI material
The First Amendment

Lesson plans
Contact us
Privacy statement
Related links