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Task force set to battle TV violence

Reeling from what they called “one of the bloodiest months in TV history,” 19 national organizations Monday formed a Citizens Task Force to battle video violence.

The group, unveiled at a Capitol Hill press conference, vowed to launch a nationwide petition drive to convince television executives in Los Angeles this summer that it’s time to take action.

“Enough is enough,” said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). “There’s too much violence on television and it’s hurting our kids.”

The petition urges the TV and film industries to establish a violence rating system for prime time TV, children’s programming and films. It also asks the Federal Communications Commission to hold hearings on the subject and consider adopting the system and a labeling program for violent shows.

The task force wants to encourage the industry to take advantage of a narrowing window of opportunity for self-regulation — legislation approved in 1990 exempting it from antitrust laws so it can develop standards on violence. The law, sponsored by Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), expires in December with its mission likely to be unfulfilled.

Conrad figures the project was given an ominous send-off by the TV networks themselves following the May sweeps, which has been dubbed “murder month.”

“There’s ample evidence that violence on television leads to violence in real life — the California boy who murdered his friend’s father, and then poured salt in the wounds because he saw it on TV; (or) the Rhode Island 15-year-old who hanged himself after watching a stunt hanging of TV host Johnny Carson,” said the lawmaker.

Joining the drive is a cross-section of national organizations representing child psychologists, physicians, churches, police and video violence activists. They include the National PTA, the American Medical Assn. and the National Council of Churches.

Representatives from several of the groups spelled out their concerns — which generally focused on children — at the press conference. They repeated often-quoted statistics concerning the amount of violence contained on prime time television.

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