Plan To Rate TV Violence in the Works

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The major broadcast and cable-television networks last week were fine-tuning voluntary plans to create independent monitors to rate their programming for violent content.

Details of the proposed independent-monitoring systems were not released. Representatives of the cable-television industry on Jan. 25 held the latest in a series of meetings with Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., and Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., key lawmakers who have called on the industry to voluntarily reduce violence or else face federal action.

"We're still working on finalizing the plan,'' said Bridget Blumberg, a spokeswoman for the National Cable Television Association.

She confirmed that a number of U.S. cable networks have signed on to an 11-point plan that requires the development of a violence ratings system and an independent monitor to report annually on violent content, and endorses so-called "V-chip'' technology, which would allow viewers to block violent shows from entering their homes.

While the four major broadcast networks--ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox--have also agreed in principle to use an independent monitor to review their programming, it remained unclear last week whether they would use the same system as the cable channels.

'A Turnaround'

The television industry has been threatened with at least seven bills in Congress designed to curb or monitor television violence. (See Education Week, Nov. 3, 1993.)

Senator Simon had given the industry until Jan. 1, which essentially meant last week's return of Congress, to develop voluntary efforts to reduce violence or else face some sort of federal action. One measure includes an outright ban on violent programming during hours when children are a large part of the audience.

"It looked like nothing was going to happen by the [January] deadline,'' David Carle, a spokesman for Senator Simon, said. "This is quite a turnaround.''

Details of the monitoring systems could be announced as early as this week.

Meanwhile last week:

  • The new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Reed Hundt, told programming executives in Miami that the agency "will do whatever we can'' to enforce any legislation passed by Congress to reduce television violence.
  • A University of Pennsylvania researcher released a study showing that violent programs have consistently lower Nielsen ratings than nonviolent shows.
  • Dozens of media organizations and individuals took out a full-page ad in The Washington Post, paid for by the television industry, to warn that the proposed bills in Congress would infringe on free speech.
  • Cable in the Classroom and the N.C.T.A. announced a series of "critical viewing'' workshops for parents and teachers around the country. The first was set for Feb. 1 in San Diego.

Vol. 13, Issue 19

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