FOR THE WEEK OF APR 30, 2007
Limits on TV violence gain momentum in Washington
The Constitution assures press freedom, which lets newspaper editors and publishers decide how to cover crimes, warfare, accidents and other news requiring particularly sensitive judgments. Solicit opinions about how this paper generally does, including how it covered the Virginia Tech campus shootings.
Entertainment and journalism overlap all the time, with reviews and articles about shows, videos, films and music that feature violence. Invite class members to debate whether newspapers should ignore entertainment with hard-core mayhem, should do more to warn readers, should condemn it in columns and editorials, or should just describe it and let readers decide what’s worthwhile.
Ask students to discuss how far the government can go – and should go – to protect young TV viewers from violent images. Should those decisions remain solely up to parents?
National officials who license broadcast TV networks and local stations this week will urge Congress to give the government more power to curb violence in entertainment shows. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) feels that regulating TV violence is in the public interest, particularly before 10 p.m. when children are watching.
The proposed crackdown on fights, gunplay, bombings, knife attacks, torture, car crashes and other gory scenes would apply to over-the-air broadcasters and basic cable stations, but not satellite services or premium cable outlets such as HBO and Showtime. Still, a high-stakes legal battle between the government and the television industry is expected over free speech, defining violence and what standards are reasonable.
The FCC already fines broadcasters for sexually "indecent" speech and images, but it can’t yet punish stations and networks for violent shows. Congress asked the agency three years ago to consider tighter rules. A report to be delivered any day is based on hundreds of comments from parents, TV executives, academic experts and others.
Reason for proposal: Experts and lawmakers say violence on entertainment shows has increased dramatically and poses a threat by scaring children and making some more aggressive.
Federal official says: “It would be better if the industry addressed this on its own, but we can also give parents help through regulation." -- Kevin Martin, FCC chairman
Regulation critic says: “I have serious concerns about media violence in general. My concern always stops at the door of my house, however, and does not extend to inviting government to insure that my views are imposed on everyone else.” -- John Eggerton, Washington Bureau Chief at Broadcasting & Cable magazine
Front Page Talking Points Archive