WASHINGTON — As a high-profile bill targeting showbiz violence was nearly waylaid Tuesday, academics urged the Senate Commerce Committee to adopt a proposal banning violent programming when kids are most likely to be watching television.
The Commerce Committee held the TV hearing just days after the full Senate rejected Sen. Ernest Hollings’ proposal, which at the time was packaged as an amendment to the Juvenile Crime Bill.
Earlier Tuesday that measure, which includes a package of proposals aimed at putting Hollywood marketing practices in the spotlight, was nearly tabled. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, threatened to pull the youth crime bill from Senate consideration unless the two sides agree on a way to wrap it up quickly.
In the wake of a shooting spree by two Colorado high school students that left 15 people dead, legislators are lashing out at the entertainment industry for saturating popular culture with violence.
Profs support restrictions
At Tuesday’s hearing several academics said they would support tougher restrictions on TV violence. In his testimony, the U. of Michigan’s Leonard Eron said that studies done over the course of the past 35 years point to the harmful effects of television violence on children. According to Eron, there is evidence that kids who watch too much violent TV grow up to be relatively more violent adults.
“The television industry has not accepted responsibility for the danger being done by violent programming,” said Eron. “When big bucks are involved, the industry moves very slowly. Senator, they need a push.”
Free speech questions
Testifying against the Hollings proposal was attorney and First Amendment rights advocate Bob Corn-Revere, who said the proposed restrictions would clearly violate the television industry’s right to free speech.
“It is significantly overbroad,” said Corn-Revere, who added that the Supreme Court has indicated in the past that it is unwilling to reduce adult viewing to what is only fit for kids.
In related news, Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) introduced a proposal to create a commission on “accountability of the Motion Picture Industry.” The proposed panel would investigate whether studios are marketing violent programming to kids and look into federal regulation of “the content of motion pictures.”