Bill Asks FCC to Ban Violent TV Programming in 'Safe Harbor'
EDITORS NOTE: Changes language in 6th paragraph.
(CNSNews.com) - Two southern Democrats are teaming up to create what they call a "safe harbor" of television programming for kids by forcing the federal government to crack down on violent TV shows.
The measure, called the Children's Protection from Violent Programming Act, would require the Federal Communications Commission to "prohibit the distribution of violent television programming," during times when kids are most prone to watch TV, according to Rep. Ronnie Shows (D-Miss.), the chief patron of the House bill, which he said he'll introduce this week.
Shows said in a statement that an identical bill will also be introduced in the Senate by Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) as a response to increasing levels of violence and sexual content on television programs.
Television executives and programmers have taken several measures in recent years to reduce violent content on TV, including a voluntary program rating system and an electronic V-Chip to let parents block objectionable programs from their home televisions. But Shows said those measures have been ineffective.
The national television industry has been using a voluntary system of rating television programs now for several years. These ratings have failed to reduce violence on television," said Shows, who won election to a second term in the House last November by a commanding 58-40 margin over Republican Dunn Lampton.
Shows did not mention specific examples of violence by children that might be linked to television programming, but said popular entertainment can be a contributing factor.
"Our children are being inundated with visuals of murder and beatings, and mind-sets of violent behavior and immorality," said Shows. "We must act on behalf of our nation, our families and our future."
While many Americans question the content of some television shows, questions are also raised about how Shows' bill might legally define violent behavior and immorality.
The US Supreme Court has permitted individual communities to establish local standards for pornography, but because network television is broadcast coast-to-coast, the issue of defining "immorality" becomes less clear.
The Shows bill would first require the FCC to look at how effective the V-Chip and the TV rating system are in keeping violent programs off television, and the 'Safe Harbor' provision would only take effect if it's found those two systems are not working.
The legislation, if fully enacted, would also give the agency the authority to define the time frame for the safe harbor, and give it the enforcement muscle to revoke the broadcast license of stations that do not comply with the act.