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Big Three webs agree on TV violence rules

The Big Three networks Friday jointly issued new standards to limit “gratuitous or excessive” depictions of program violence.

The announcement was made by Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), who said at a press conference here that an industrywide conference will be held next year in Los Angeles to discuss ways to limit violent programming. Motion Picture Assn. of America topper Jack Valenti has agreed to attend, per Simon.

Simon sponsored the Television Program Improvement Act of 1990, a law that gave the TV networks a three-year exemption from antitrust law to meet and coordinate voluntary reductions in TV violence.

Pressure from the lawmaker is believed to have been instrumental in forcing the webs into action, although it’s unclear from Friday’s somewhat nebulous announcement whether big changes for viewers are in the offing.

With the new violence rules was a preface from the nets stating the regs are “consistent with each of the network’s pre-existing policies on violence. At the same time they are set forth in a more detailed and explanatory manner to reflect the experience gained under the pre-existing policies.”

Each network will continue to make judgment calls individually on which programs are acceptable, the statement noted. In addition, the standards “are not intended to inhibit the work of producers, directors or writers or to impede the creative process.”

Fifteen standards were adopted, including calls for limits on the following:

o Violence that is not “relevant and necessary to the development of character or to the advancement of theme or plot.”

o Gratuitous, excessive or redundant violence.

o Glamorous depictions of violence.

o Scenes showing excessive gore, pain or physical suffering.

o Depictions of violence that “shock or stimulate the audience.”

o Scenes which “may be instructive in nature” or show “ingenious, unique or otherwise unfamiliar methods of inflicting pain.”

o Scenes that depict “callousness or indifference to suffering.”

The guidelines also state that “extreme caution” should be exercised during scenes that mix sex and violence.

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