Over TV Violence Report
By David Hatch
The National Journal
FCC report recommending steps that Congress can take to
regulate television violence has sharply divided the
agency's five members.
Multiple sources said Republican Chairman Kevin Martin
and Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps, who are
spearheading the crackdown on graphic scenes, had
approved the latest version of the report.
But GOP Commissioner Robert McDowell and Democratic
Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein are apprehensive about
intervening in this area, and it is unclear whether they
are onboard, sources said.
Republican Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate is expected
to approve the findings, although her office did not
return telephone calls seeking comment.
Further complicating matters, minority groups recently
complained about language in the report endorsing per
channel cable pricing, known as a la carte.
The discord may explain why the document, requested by
39 House lawmakers in 2004 and the subject of
speculation for weeks, is not ready - although some
observers expect it soon.
The report concludes that Congress can regulate violent
TV images without compromising the First Amendment. It
has created some unusual alliances -- teaming Martin and
Copps, who are often at odds, while dividing Copps and
Adelstein, who normally move in lockstep.
Adelstein shares his colleagues' concerns but disagrees
on the approach. "The question is: What's the role of
government, and what's the role of broadcasters? I mean,
there should be some sense of responsibility," he said
last month. last month.
McDowell, who already has split with Martin on some
high-profile items, has raised First Amendment concerns.
While applauding the agency's efforts to curb televised
violence, three minority groups recently urged the FCC
not to embrace a la carte pricing.
"If [a la carte] is enacted, programming channels aimed
at small but significant minority segments of the
population would be threatened," the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People warned
in a March 14 letter. Two Hispanic organizations raised
similar concerns in February.
Shortly after the FCC report's release, Sen. John (Jay)
Rockefeller, D-W.Va., plans to reintroduce legislation
that would expand the FCC's "indecency" regulations to
pay TV and allow the agency to restrict violent fare on
broadcast, cable and satellite.
Rockefeller is expected to ask Senate Commerce Chairman
Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, for a hearing and a vote on his
bill. Rockefeller is a senior member of the Commerce
Inouye's office declined to comment, but several sources
characterized the Hawaiian as "moderate" on the issues.
A television industry source predicted that, even if the
FCC approves the report 3-2, Rockefeller's bill would
easily pass the chamber because "no one's going to
oppose violence [legislation]."
Nevertheless, Rockefeller faces what even his supporters
acknowledge are substantial constitutional hurdles,
given that subscription television does not use the
public airwaves and that defining excessive violence is
Industry and congressional sources agree that lawsuits
are inevitable if the measure is enacted.
"We believe that consumers are the best judge of which
content is appropriate for their household," said
National Cable and Telecommunications Association
spokesman Brian Dietz, noting that parental controls are
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