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Canada sets anti-violence code

Canada’s private broadcasters have already made a major New Year’s resolution: less violence on the tube.

Starting Jan. 1, broadcasters will be expected to comply with a voluntary code against TV violence that Ottawa’s chief regulator calls “a significant step toward assuring Canadian children a healthier TV childhood.”

The Canadian code is just the sort of anti-violence action the Clinton administration would like to implement. Attorney General Janet Reno recently warned that if the U.S. industry doesn’t act to regulate itself, government will step in.

Though Canada’s code is voluntary, compliance is expected. The Canadian Radio-Television & Telecommunications Commission, Canada’s broadcast regulator, has the ultimate weapon: license renewals.

But the emphasis is on cooperation.

“In American terms, it looks squishy,” CRTC chairman Keith Spicer acknowledged. “We are much less fascinated by binding legal codes than Americans tend to be. We put a lot more instinctive trust in informal, voluntary arrangements.”

The Clinton administration would like to see voluntary regulation, too. “But if significant voluntary steps are not taken soon, government action will be imperative,” Reno recently said.

“Our judgment is that, in the main, Canadian programming tends not to be all that violent,” noted Spicer. “Our real problem is American programming.”

The new code cannot stop programs coming into Canada over the airwaves from American border stations.

Neither does it cover the state-owned Canadian Broadcasting Corp., cable companies, producers, advertisers, pay TV and specialty services. But an organization representing these groups, the Action Group on Violence in Television, is expected to submit its own code for CRTC approval this month.

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