TV violence taken to task

The Citizen’s Task Force on TV Violence Wednesday recommended entertainment industry adoption of a code — patterned after Canada — that bars showing “gratuitous, dramatized” violence between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

The recommendation, which was forwarded to Attorney General Janet Reno, was unveiled at a press confab here presided over by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.).

The task force comprised a number of influential groups, including the American Medical Assn., the National PTA, the National Council of Churches and the American Psychiatric Assn.

Conrad said, “The time for studies is over. The time for debate is over. It is time to act” on the problem of TV violence. As an example, he cited the recent CBS vidpic “Murder of Innocence,” in which a woman sprayed bullets into a class full of children, and said it is “disturbing” that NBC plans a primetime airing of “Witness to the Execution” during the February sweeps.

Those remarks prompted a strong response from NBC, calling the attacks “a gross misrepresentation of the film” that “further demonstrate the inherent dangers of the current debate about media violence … (which) underscores the bias underlying this debate, and the corrosive atmosphere of censorship that is being created.”

The movie, set in the future, deals with televising an execution as a means of attracting viewers in a coming 500-channel environment.

With Conrad acknowledging that his allusion to the movie was based on press clippings, the network said it’s “dismayed by the apparent willingness to pre-judge” the movie by some public officials and members of the media. NBC added that the movie carries a strong anti-violence message, with only a brief depiction of violence at the end that is “neither graphic nor gratuitous.”

Highlighting the task force recommendations was the call for “safe harbor” viewing period between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. that would be free of violence.

The proposal is patterned on a voluntary code adopted recently by the Canadian Assn. of Broadcasters.

The task force urges the FCC to come up with its own anti-violence rules if broadcasters, cablers and programmers refuse to adopt voluntary guidelines.

The group’s recommendations included:

  • Urging the White House to hold a violence summit, with a special emphasis on TV violence.

  • Suggesting that violent TV programming be barred from prisons.

  • Calling upon the FCC to hold hearings on TV violence throughout the country.

The Task Force also announced support of Rep. Ed Markey’s (D-Mass) “V- chip” bill that require insertion of a microchip in all new TV sets, allowing parents to block out violent programs.

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