Cable TV magnate Ted Turner told Congress Friday that TV violence can be directly linked to violence in society and that TV exex bear some responsibility for the flood of homicides throughout the U.S.
Program executives “are guilty of murder as far as I can see,” said Turner. “They all are. Me, too.”
Turner’s remarks came before Rep. Ed Markey’s House telecommunications subcommittee, which is conducting a series of hearings on TV violence. Markey is urging the entertainment industry to adopt an MPAA-like rating system on TV shows, and is also calling for TV-set makers to install “violence chips” in TV sets allowing parents to block out “V-rated” programs.
Turner suggested that if Hollywood and the networks do not embrace a voluntary rating system and V-chips, then Congress should “ram it down their throats” legislatively.
Turner said he’s skeptical the webs will self-regulate their industry. In digs at CBS chairman Laurence Tisch (who controls tobacco company Lorillard) and NBC (which is owned by General Electric), Turner said “one network is owned by a cigarette company and the other is owned by a company that makes nuclear weapons. All they care about is making money.”
Network executives who seem paralyzed by the anti-violence bandwagon sweeping D.C. were none too happy about Turner’s remarks. “Gee thanks, Ted,” said one sarcastically; “Ever hear about the First Amendment?”
Lawmakers, by contrast, praised Turner’s performance, and used the occasion to press for more hearings. Markey noted that another hearing will be held Thursday which will feature Motion Picture Assn. of America prez Jack Valenti and reps of the networks.
Markey also promised a later hearing with advertising industry representatives, who will be queried on whether major corporations will balk at advertising their wares on V-rated shows.
Backing up Turner was his actress wife Jane Fonda, who told reporters afterward that a rating system is “essential.”
Fonda said that “what’s being proposed here would help younger actors and actresses” avoid having to accept demeaning roles in violent programs and films. She based the claim on the theory that corporate America will avoid buying ads on programs stigmatized by a V-rating.
“If the market gets turned off, then the young actresses will not be asked to be brutalized” in programs, said Fonda.
Turner said that if programs become less violent, then TV “will be more Pollyanna than it was before. But what’s wrong with more shows like ‘The Cosby Show’?” he asked.