Senator wants violent content regulated

Among the leading 2008 presidential candidates, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has advocated the most regulatory approach toward the entertainment industry, surpassing that of even the most conservative Republican contender.

Clinton supports regulation of television as well as videogames over violent content.

In 2004, Clinton wrote to the Federal Communications Commission shortly after it opened an inquiry into TV violence and its potential effects on children, urging the agency to consider regulating TV violence.

The FCC has authority to regulate broadcast television only for indecent content. Part of the inquiry was to examine whether the agency could extend that authority over violence.

Long concerned about children’s issues, Clinton has repeatedly criticized certain vidgames for violent content, which she believes has a negative effect on childhood behavior and development. She has co-sponsored legislation that would fund federal research into the effects of media exposure on children and she has endorsed regulating sales of vidgames to minors.

Courts have struck down every attempt so far to regulate vidgame sales.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), considered the most conservative among the current top contenders, has also criticized vidgames for content. He also spearheaded last year’s Senate effort to raise broadcast indecency fines tenfold — a move no other senator, including Clinton, opposed. But Brownback has yet to call on the FCC to regulate television for violent content.

The entertainment industry has always chafed at any discussion of federal regulation, but Clinton’s desire to rein in TV violence did not appear to hurt her during the 2006 election cycle, when she took in the most money in showbiz donations — $950,000, more than double that of her closest competitor.

And 10% of the $26 million her presidential campaign reported receiving in the first quarter of this year came from a single Hollywood fund-raiser.

But Hollywood may not be aware of Clinton’s desire to regulate TV violence.

Marty Kaplan, an expert at USC on showbiz and politics, didn’t know until asked about it. Neither did Bill Carrick, a longtime Democratic political consultant in Los Angeles.

Carrick doubted Clinton’s stance would alienate donors and supporters she has been courting in Hollywood. “In all my years here, it’s always about the bigger-picture issues, like Iraq and the economy,” Carrick said. Top studio execs may be concerned, he added, “but I haven’t heard of any.”

“I suspect that a lot of people in the business prefer the approach Bill Clinton blessed — the V-chip, which puts control in the hands of parents, along with industry self-rating of content — rather than regulation,” Kaplan said. “Over the years, Hollywood has grown accustomed to politicians scoring culture wars points off the content and marketing of television, music, movies and, more recently, videogames. More often than not, these calls are viewed less as a threat of federal censorship and more as a wake-up call that industry self-policing isn’t as effective as it should be, especially when it comes to protected classes, like children.

“My guess is that the risk for Sen. Clinton is not that the entertainment industry sees her as a (Parents Television Council founder) Brent Bozell ally, but that these comments suggest the same kind of calculating triangulation evidenced in her bill opposing flag-burning,” Kaplan continued.

Neither Clinton’s Senate office nor her campaign responded to requests for comment.

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