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CONTACT: Tori Katz
June 15 , 2007
(410) 466-0049

The Complexities of Regulating TV Violence
PFF Releases Transcript of May Panel Featuring Comments from Former FCC General Counsel and Other Experts

Moderator Adam Thierer to Host Book Event Wed. June 20th About Parental Controls and Online Child Protection

WASHINGTON D.C. - A recent Federal Communication Commissions report on violent television programming and its effect on children, argued that the government should assume a greater role in regulating programming. Is such regulation necessary? How would "excessively violent" content be defined by regulators? These issues were debated Friday, May 18th by panelists at "The Complexities of Regulating TV Violence" a seminar hosted by The Progress & Freedom Foundation (PFF). In light of continuing legislative efforts to address these concerns, PFF is releasing a transcript of the event.

PFF Senior Fellow Adam Thierer, moderator of the May event, has written extensively on the issues of child safety, parental controls and media regulation. On Wed., June 20th Thierer will release his new book, "Parental Control & Online Child Protection: A Survey of Tools and Methods," a comprehensive guide to parental control tools and methods for the variety of entertainment media available today. Those interested in the June 20th book launch event, can register online.

Thierer began the May panel discussion about TV violence by asking each panelist to express their views on the issues, including the legal, practical and even scientific concerns about the current effort to regulate violent programming. The following is a summary of each speaker's comments:

Henry Geller, Former General Counsel of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1964-1970, focused on constitutional issues, disagreeing with the FCC that the regime proposed would likely be held constitutional for two major reasons. The first involves the difficulty of defining excessive violence, something the FCC after three years has not developed. Geller stated, "The only conclusion you come to is that if you try to implement that program in excessive violence, you would end up with a horrendous problem." He challenged that parents should be put in a position to make difficult judgments that have to be made. "The FCC does a disservice when it puts out a notice, discusses these issues, including constitutionality, and does not confront cases that are directly in point."

Robert Corn-Revere partner in the Washington D.C. office of Davis Wright Tremaine discussed whether or not the FCC report provides a sound basis for policy making. Citing, that the final report converted the questions raised in the 2004 Notice of Inquiry into conclusions in 2007. "Overall if Congress or policy makers are looking for an indication of what direction to go with this issue, then there is an independent agency that has provided a comprehensive analysis. And I think the FTC provides a much better basis for making a decision than the FCC's report.” Corn-Revere argued, at the heart of the Commission’s Report is whether or not it is possible to come up with a definition of violence.

Jonathan L. Freedman, Vice-President of the University of Toronto focused solely on research, not the legal aspects of it. Freedman stated, "Reading all of the evidence, it is very clear that it does not produce a strong case for believing that exposure to television violence causes aggression, much less violence." He noted that if television violence and television causes aggression, an increase in violent crimes should also occur. Beginning at the introduction of television up to the present, he proved that the opposite was the case since the introduction of television in 1955 to the present. His final statement, "So I say to the government, the members of Congress, why do you want to restrict access to violent television now, when crime rates are lower than they were when you were growing up?"

Robin Bronk, Executive Director of the Creative Coalition stressed the need for media literacy. "We are asking the government to step in by funding programs that will provide media literacy, for children," she stated. "To provide guidelines how to teach the media literacy and to get into local and state governments who do control the curricula of our schools, because we do have this generation of children that does need guidance.” Bronk took issues with parents and consumers, asking both to urge the entertainment industry for better guidelines for our children. Her final thought, "It is not the right of the government to get into the lives and the living rooms of its citizens to turn off the remote control. That is our privilege and something that we should not give up."

Initial panel remarks were followed by a fervent discussion amongst the participants and audience members. Complete statements from the panelists and questions from attendees can be found in the event transcript.

The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.



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