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US federal regulator to urge Congress to enact harsh laws against TV violence


24 April, 2007: Concerned over the effect of television violence on children, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have decided to recommend that Congress enact legislation to give the government unprecedented powers to check violence in television entertainment programming.

The federal regulator, according to government and television industry sources, has concluded that regulating TV violence is in public interest, particularly during times when children are likely to watch television – typically between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

The Federal Communications Commission’s recommendations, which will be released in a report to Congress by the end of April 2007, are likely to trigger a legal battle between Washington and the television industry.

The Federal Communications Commission has, for decades, penalized broadcasters for airing sexually suggestive, or indecent, speech and images. However, it has never had the authority to fine television stations and networks for violent programming.

The FCC insists that Congress has the authority to regulate excessive violence and extend its reach into basic-cable television channels that consumers pay to receive.

Experts on First Amendment s well as television industry executives opine that any attempt to regulate television faces high constitutional hurdles – especially so with cable TV since consumers choose to buy its programming.

Moreover, any laws governing TV violence would have to define what violence is. The report by the Federal Communications Commission contains broad guidelines, but leaves the details to Congress.

According to regulators and lawmakers, violent acts on entertainment shows – ranging from torture scenes on Fox’s 24 to the violence of professional wrestling – have escalated in recent years, posing a continuing threat to children.

Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin is of the opinion that “parents are always the first and last line of defense in protecting their children, but legislation could give parents more tools.” It would be better if the industry addressed this on its own, Kevin Martin adds, but parents can be helped through regulation.

The FCC is giving the final touches to its recommendations amid heightened sensitivity to the issue of television violence in the backdrop of round-the-clock TV news coverage of the recent campus carnage in Virginia Tech University.

Research dating back to the 1950s has demonstrated that prolonged exposure to watching violence on television has a negative effect on children. The observed behavior among these children ranged from heightened anxiety to aggressive acts.

But, studies also have shown that some portrayals of TV violence can be beneficial, such as showing children the harm caused by violent behavior.

The United States Congress has struggled with the issue for decades now, but never enacted a law designed to check television violence.

In 2004, 39 lawmakers had asked the FCC to study the issue and advise Congress on legislation.



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