Cable, b’cast TV reps set anti-violence plans

Facing unprecedented pressure from Capitol Hill to curb TV violence, cable and broadcast industry representatives will hold two press conferences today to unveil a series of voluntary initiatives designed to ward off legislation.

Both the cable industry and the four broadcast networks will announce plans to form independent monitors to review all programs for violence content. Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), who has pushed for the idea, will be on hand for the announcement, and is expected to urge colleagues in the House and Senate to drop efforts to curb TV violence until results of the monitoring program can be assessed.

V-chip bloc

Meanwhile, the cable industry will hold a separate Capitol Hill event, where top cable execs plan to endorse the use of technology to allow parents to block programs carrying a violence rating. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) will be on hand for the cable industry announcement.

Markey is sponsor of so-called V-chip legislation, which calls for insertion of a microchip in all new TV sets allowing parents to block out V-rated programs.

Cable’s support for the V-chip concept and rating system is clearly seen as a bid to one-up the broadcast industry, since cablers say their support for the two ideas is conditional on broadcast industry backing. Cablers are “committed to developing some type of viewer discretion technology, but we won’t implement it unless the broadcasters also do it,” one industry source said.

Network representatives say they remain unalterably opposed to Markey’s V-chip idea.

Although Markey released a statement insisting that cable has “endorsed the use of the V-chip,” a cable rep said the industry will not specifically embrace Markey’s proposal. However, the concept of allowing parents to block out shows will be embraced, said the cable source.

By taking the lead in the anti-violence crusade, cable appears to be trying to shake the negative industry image that lingers from congressional passage of the 1992 Cable Act. A public relations coup by cable could be just what the doctor ordered, since the industry faces important public policy battles in both Congress and the FCC in coming months.

The FCC is about to decide the extent of further cable rate reductions for consumers stemming from the 1992 rereg bill.

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