FCC's looking to get tough on violence

A customer looks at TVs in an electronics store.

KAI RYSSDAL: Violence on TV's OK. Just no sex please. That pretty well sums up the state of federal regulation on what can be shown during most hours of the day. But Pat Loeb reports the Federal Communications Commission is considering some new rules on violent programming.


PAT LOEB: Congress requested an FCC report on TV violence almost three years ago. A draft now circulating suggests that the commission regulate violent programming, the way it does sexual content or profanity. Consider this scene from the show "24" . . . The main character, Jack Bauer, stabs himself in the stomach.
JACK BAUER: I have to make it look like I was injured during the attack.

The show is broadcast at 9 p.m., during family viewing hours. If Congress accepts the report, such scenes would be barred from broadcast between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Child advocate Patti Miller of Children Now says the group welcomes FCC oversight.

PATTI MILLER: There's some very serious consequences of prolonged exposure to television violence for children. This is really a public health issue and we need to be concerned about this.

But Jonathan Rintels of the Center for Creative Voices in Media says the problem with such regulations is that they are vague and violate free speech.

JONATHAN RINTELS: Are we going to censor the news? Are we going to censor sports? I mean, one person's violence is another person's hockey game.

Cable companies are balking, too. Their content is not regulated by the FCC but the draft report recommends that Congress mandate a family tier of cable programming or a la carte choices for parents. The report is still in its early stages but several lawmakers, including Hillary Clinton and John McCain, have expressed support for tighter regulation of violent programming.

In Los Angeles, I'm Pat Loeb for Marketplace.

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