Congress set to rev up anti-TV violence issues

Fresh off a monthlong recess, Congress returns to the fray today and is expected to jump-start the anti-TV violence bandwagon.

Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), a leader in the TV violence campaign, will address the National Press Club on the issue Sept. 16.

Meanwhile, House telecommunications subcommittee chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is planning another in a series of hearings on the effect of TV violence on minority viewers.

A host of TV violence bills are pending in Congress, but initiatives offered by Markey and Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) seemingly have the best chances of being enacted.

The Hollings bill would authorize the Federal Communications Commission to ban the airing of violent programs during times when children are likely to be in the audience. The Markey bill would require insertion of a microchip — the so-called “V-chip”– in all new TV sets, allowing parents to block out violent programming.

Markey already has lined up House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) as a co-sponsor of the V-chip bill. Dingell’s support virtually ensures the legislation will be passed out of committee.

The Hollings bill is patterned after legislation passed by Congress ordering the FCC to regulate the hours of indecent broadcasting.

First Amendment activists claim the Hollings measure would have difficulty withstanding a constitutional challenge, since the courts have previously overturned FCC efforts to enforce a round-the-clock ban on indecency.

Lawmakers are also expected to pass legislation reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, the former FCC regulation that required broadcasters to air both sides of a controversial issue. Legislation is also pending that would require beer and wine ads to carry rotating health messages, a proposal that broadcasters claim would drive such advertising off the air.

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