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U.K. RATES CENSORSHIP

Gov't plan for TV is cool to idea of V-Chip

LONDON – The British government and the country’s broadcasting authorities Tuesday unveiled new measures designed to reduce or rate violence and sex on TV.

A vague plan announced by National Heritage secretary Virginia Bottomley promises curbs on gratuitous violence, viewing guidelines for parents – perhaps including on-air warnings – stricter adherence to the 9 p.m. adult programming “watershed,” and perhaps most importantly, continued research on the merits of the V-chip, although the government’s current analysis questions its practicality.

Bottomley said “that there are still many issues to be explored to do with the practicability of the technology and the design of a workable classification system” and added that she “will be pressing for more work to be undertaken.”

The measures were thrashed out over a month-long period of meetings initiated by the government with pubcaster BBC, the Independent Television Commission – the U.K.’s commercial TV regulator – and the Broadcasting Council.

The government had expressed concern over the inclusion of subjects such as drug abuse, teenage sex, incest and rape in early evening soaps including “EastEnders” and “Brookside” and in crime shows including “The Bill.” Adult-hour fare like the award-winning “Cracker” and “Prime Suspect” have also been criticized.

Some industry observers, however, see the crackdown as posturing in the run-up to the next general election, due sometime in the spring.

For their part, broadcasters have good reason to be compliant. The BBC is currently lobbying the government for a boost in its license fee, Channel 4 is hoping to avoid its privatization, and the ITV network companies are looking for a reduction in the fees they pay to the government.

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