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US Senate Tackles TV Violence


With studies showing that a growing number of children are exposed to graphic violence on television, U.S. lawmakers are considering tighter regulations on media content. But the effort faces opposition from entertainment executives and free speech advocates. VOA's Leta Hong Fincher reports on a Senate hearing to examine the impact of media violence on children.

A recent study by the Parents Television Council says that the last primetime television season in the United States was the most violent ever recorded. Tim Winter, president of the council says, "The depictions of violence have become more graphic, as we saw, far more realistic, thanks in part to enhanced computer graphics and special effects employed in TV production today. And second, there is an alarming trend for violent scenes to include a sexual element."

Winter testified at a Senate hearing on the effect of violent television images on America's children. He said the evidence is strong that children exposed to television violence are more aggressive and show a greater propensity for violence in later life.

Democratic Senator John Rockefeller is a vocal critic of TV violence. He said Congress needs to impose curbs on the broadcast and cable industry. "We now know that the entertainment and broadcasting industry has proven itself unable and unwilling to police itself. I fear that graphic, violent programming has become so pervasive and has been shown to be so harmful, we're left with no choice but to have the government step in."

But the president of entertainment at FOX Broadcasting Company, Peter Liguori, says studies have not established a causal link between television violence and violent behavior in children. "Without a causal link, we cannot justify imposing content limits on our media. Should we as parents do more nonetheless to minimize our kids' exposure to TV violence? Absolutely. But this is the job of parents, not of the government."

First Amendment expert Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School argues that the government should not be given the power to decide what depictions of violence are suitable. "In the long run, it is not in the interests of my children, my grandchildren or the children or grandchildren of this or of any other generation, that we sacrifice free speech on the altar of protecting children."

Entertainment industry advocates say parents can use TV content ratings or technology to block programs with inappropriate content. But recent studies found that many parents are confused by the technology and TV ratings.

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