The broadcasting industry is apparently tired of discussing TV violence, judging from low attendance at one of the National Assn. of Broadcasters convention’s most publicized and anticipated events — an all-star panel on the subject.

The debate over content regulation drew about 30 attendees in a room that could hold about 200. If you subtracted the journalists and lawyers, there were probably only a handful of TV station executives in the room.

Fiercely debating

That did not stop the panel of 12 from fiercely debating the issue. Among the debaters was anti-violence activist Terry Rakolta, producer Len Hill, Fox Broadcasting Co. general counsel George Vradenburg and First Amendment attorney Burt Neuborne.

Rakolta, who used to lobby advertisers but now has turned her attention to Congress and the FCC, said all she wants is a safe harbor from violence from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

However, she later admitted that if she had her way, ABC’s “NYPD Blue,” which airs after 9 p.m., would not be on television. Rakolta said there should be a public referendum on whether the show should be aired.

Rakolta has also changed her stance on cable, once saying that since people choose to invite cable into their home, they should not be subject to content regulation. Now she is going after cable systems who carry MTV, which she says is too violent.

There was some agreement among the Hollywood community and the activists that some movies should never make the transition from film to television.

Both producer Hill and FBC’s George Vradenburg criticized CBS for airing the Steven Seagal movie “Marked for Death” on Tuesday night. “That was reckless,” said Hill, who contended that there should be grounds for an investigation of the network’s fitness to hold broadcast licenses. (It should be noted that NBC last Sunday aired the Seagal movie “Hard to Kill.”)

The infamous “V chip,” which would allow parents to block programming designated as violent, was not seen as a solution by the Hollywood community.

“It’s like three strikes and you’re out. It has a sexy appeal,” said Hill, referring to laws that put criminals behind bars for life upon the third felony conviction. Hill added that Congress is creating a national panic over TV violence with its hearings and push for such technology. The V-chip bill is currently under debate in the House of Representatives.

Hill argued that TV is already devoid of gratuitous sex and violence. “We are being chilled by the climate,” he said. Hill has said in the past his business is hurting because the networks are becoming more conservative in their programming decisions.

Panelists blamed the low attendance on its schedule slot near the end of the convention, but some conceded many broadcasters are simply leaving the issue to their lawyers.

They may also just be tired of the subject.

Harsh criticism

At the National Assn. of Television Program Executives confab, they heard harsh criticism from incoming FCC chairman Reed Hundt, in what was his first real address to the industry. TV violence hearings are occurring on an almost weekly basis on Capitol Hill, and at this point the industry may be tired of fighting a battle it can’t seem to win.

Panelists did agree that at this rate some form of content regulation is inevitable. Vradenburg pointed out that a recent hearing, Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), who has been leading the charge against TV violence, refused to let experts with studies showing no links between TV violence and real life violence appear.

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