Gingrich will block content bills

Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) has assured the TV industry that he’ll block any new content legislation if they reach an agreement with kidvid groups on changes to the voluntary TV content rating system, congressional sources say.

Talks over a new rating system fell apart Thursday after Vice President Al Gore broke his neutral stance on the issue and endorsed a plan, backed by parents groups, to strengthen the system.

Right now, the industry has an age-based system designed after the MPAA movie code. Gore called for the addition of V, S and L codes indicating the presence of violence, sex and foul language. He also backed a plan to add violence labels to kids shows.

In an attempt to break the impasse, House telecom subcommittee chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) secured the support of Gingrich to kill any new TV content bills if all sides can come to terms, according to Tauzin spokesman Ken Johnson.

The move by Tauzin and Gingrich is an attempt to neutralize the threat made last week by Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) to write a new, stricter content code into law if broadcasters and parents couldn’t do it on their own by Tuesday. He also promised to move forward on other TV violence/content bills.

Tauzin’s spokesman said the McCain threat had tipped the balance of negotiations toward kidvid groups, and his promise to kill any new bills evens things out. Sources say the two sides could be back at the table this week, and one network lobbyist didn’t rule out the possibility of reaching an agreement by Tuesday.

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