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Simon to lobby against anti-TV violence laws

Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) says he will resist passage of anti-TV violence legislation but warns that the issue has become so volatile, he’s not sure his efforts will be successful.

“I can’t promise anyone there won’t be any legislation (given the) mood out there in the Senate,” said Simon, who addressed the National Assn. of Broadcasters’ state leadership conference on Monday. Nevertheless, saying “I have some credibility on this issue,” he promised to lobby lawmakers to give the industry more time to clean up its act.

Toward that end, Simon has asked cable and broadcast industry titans to meet in D.C. with sponsors of anti-violence proposals to convince lawmakers they are serious about ridding the airwaves of excessive violence. Simon said Sens. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) have been asked to attend the meeting, which hasn’t been officially scheduled.

“I don’t want to see us get out on thin ice in terms of the First Amendment,” said Simon. “I’d rather you (the industry) provide the answer, rather than the federal government.”

Simon said legislation is “inevitable” if the public does not see concrete results of less violent programming.

During a Q&A session, Simon agreed it is difficult to come up with a definition of what constitutes excessive violence. “It’s a little like the Supreme Court with obscenity,” he said. “They can’t define it, but they know it when they see it.”

Nevertheless, Simon said programming that “glorifies” violence should be considered excessive. News and comedy may need to be exempted, he said, and cartoons would be wise to have less violence, though “I don’t think that’s a major problem.”

Simon said USA Networks prexy Kay Koplovitz recently telephoned to pledge support for an independent industry commission to monitor TV violence. USA had been one of the last cable programmers to withhold support, Simon said.

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