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Dodd warns against regulation of violent content

MPAA chief sez biz will work with White House on tools for parents

MPAA chairman Chris Dodd has warned against any effort to try to regulate violent content and suggested that the industry would work with the White House on additional voluntary steps to help parents decide what movies and TV shows are appropriate for children.

In an appearance at the National Press Club on Friday, Dodd was asked whether Hollywood is producing movies with “too much violence” in videogames and movies, Dodd said that the industry produces product that give people “choices across the spectrum,” but that “if you start to get into the business of trying to regulate content, that is a very slippery slope.”

Dodd was among the leaders of industry trade associations who met with Vice President Joseph Biden last month as he devised a series of proposals in the wake of the shootings in Newtown, Conn. The proposals that were eventually unveiled included a call for a $10 million study by the Centers for Disease Control on the impact of videogame violence and from “media images.”

Nevertheless, some parents orgs and state lawmakers have suggested that there could be greater action that could be done, including limiting marketing of violent movies and videogames.

Dodd, however, said that the focus should be on “giving people the information they need to make their choice” of what to watch, adding that “we are working to provide whatever support and assistance we can” to the White House as it presses forward on its effort to limit gun violence.

Asked whether it was fair for the National Rifle Assn., days after the Newtown massacre, to single out the culture of violence in videogames and movies, Dodd said that their response was “sort of predictable in a way,” given the long history of turning to media after major incidents.

“If you go back in history there is kind of a lurching to suggest that this is the root cause of the problem,” he said.

He called for more attention to be paid to mental health, noting “that is the space where we really need attention.” It was an issue that he worked on with other lawmakers when he represented Connecticut in the Senate.

Dodd said that discussions have been ongoing between Silicon Valley companies and Hollywood interests, but again said that he is “not enthusiastic” about legislating in this area.

After the failure to pass anti-piracy legislation last year, Dodd has been promoting closer cooperation among tech and entertainment, but he also has been pushing back against the notion that Hollywood is “old media” that has failed to innovate. He pointed to companies like Pixar and Lucasfilm, as well as the array of new streaming options that are emerging to give consumers choices, in what he said marked a “golden age” for the business.

“We can and must have an Internet that works for everyone, and we can and must have protection for the creative industry’s genius that intellectual property represents,” he said, according to prepared remarks, adding that “for the more than two million Americans whose jobs depend on the motion picture and television industry ‘free and open’ cannot synonymous with ‘working for free.'”

He added that “we must together innovate through these challenges. Fortunately, Silicon Valley and Hollywood are making some progress on this front.”

This was Dodd’s first speech before the journalists’ org since he took the job as MPAA chairman, something that was certainly on the minds of the organizers of the event. In her introduction, National Press Club president Angela Greiling Keane noted that Dodd was trounced in the Iowa caucus in his 2008 presidential bid, that a Senate ethics committee cleared him on wrongdoing in the Countrywide mortgage scandal, that he had once pledged not to lobby when he was out of office, that his first year at MPAA was marked by the SOPA “PR disaster” and that he had once been rumored to have dated Bianca Jagger and Carrie Fisher.

“So glad I came for that introduction,” Dodd said with a chuckle as he took the lectern.