Violence legislation offered

Rep. John Bryant (D-Texas) on Wednesday offered legislation directing the FCC to set standards for reducing the level of TV violence.

The bill would target not only TV stations, cable operators and cable programmers, but also radio stations. A Bryant staffer said the radio provision was inserted because references to violent acts on programs such as Howard Stern’s syndicated radio show are “just as offensive as visual acts of violence.”

Wide range of fines

The bill would require the Federal Communications Commission within seven months to develop rules limiting violence. Stations that violate the FCC standards would face fines ranging from $ 5,000 to $ 25,000, depending on whether the violation was intentional.

Repeated violations would be cause for FCC revocation of a station’s license.

Anti-violence leader

Bryant is a member of the House telecommunications subcommittee, the panel chaired by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) that has been at the forefront of the anti-TV violence campaign. He called TV violence “offensive speech and a public nuisance. The increasing violence offered up as normal fare must stop.”

In a related matter, Markey has gained a key ally toward impending legislation requiring a computer chip in all new TV sets that would allow parents to block out violent programming.

Rep. Jack Fields of Texas, the ranking Republican on Markey’s subcommittee, has joined with the Massachusetts congressman, and that alliance presumably assures passage of the so-called V-chip bill out of subcommittee.

It remains unclear whether the measure can clear the next hurdle — the House Energy & Commerce Committee. That panel is chaired by Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who has not taken a position on the V-chip.

Markey and Fields will hold a press conference today to announce introduction of the legislation.

No members of the Senate have yet signaled an intent to offer a V-chip bill. Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), a leader in the anti-TV violence fight, will oppose the legislation. A Simon aide said the lawmaker “is not convinced the V-chip is a practical answer to TV violence.”

Simon’s opposition is said to be based on the belief that children will subvert the bill’s intent by seeking out TV sets in homes of friends whose parents don’t employ the V-block.

Some voluntary action

Under the Markey proposal, microchip technology would be inserted in all new TV sets allowing parents to block out programs that carry a violence warning. Markey would leave it to the networks to voluntarily decide which shows carry the V-rating, and to encode the shows to allow blocking to occur.

Hollywood and the networks object to the V-chip because it would allow parental blackouts of mass blocks of programming.

Markey is calling his bill the Parental Empowerment & Television Violence Reduction Act of 1993.

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