Markey says networks renege on violence warnings

January 23, 1994|By Brooks Boliek | Brooks Boliek,Hollywood Reporter

A key Washington lawmaker is accusing the TV networks of sidestepping their pledge to warn parents of violent programming.

"The industry's plan to inform parents of programming -- that they themselves have labeled as violent -- remains unfulfilled at this point," Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said. "The modest step of simply giving parents the necessary information in . . . guides to make informed judgments has not materialized."

Meanwhile, the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. last week called film and TV companies components of "a massive violence industry."

A survey of TV Guide and the Washington Post by the staff of Mr. Markey's House Telecommunications Subcommittee, from July 1 to Oct. 16, 1993, for broadcast stations, and Aug. 1 to Oct. 16 found that:

* Television "grids" did not carry violence advisories.

* Of the 450 programs with advisories for violence, less than half the warnings appeared in program guides.

* Approximately two-thirds of the advisories were listed as general "parental advisories" rather than "violence" advisories.

Mr. Markey is chairman of the panel and has been a vocal critic of TV violence. He is sponsor of legislation that would require televisions

sold in the United States to include a computer chip that would allow parents to block out shows that carry a rating for violence.

Mr. Markey said the paucity of violence listings is evidence that the June 30, 1993, pledge by NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox to tell parents if their shows contain violent content is not being kept. Fifteen cable networks also agreed to abide by the plan.

"Advisories for violence will be a failure unless parents can easily and routinely find them ahead of time," Mr. Markey said.

He conducted five hearings on the subject last year. There are nine bills in Congress that would attempt to attack violence on TV.

TV executives recently met with Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., one of the most vocal critics on the subject, about his idea to have an independent monitor for violent content.

Coretta Scott King last week wrote in an article that "while violence is ultimately committed by individuals, it is promoted and encouraged by a massive violence industry."

She cited film and TV companies, as well as video game makers, gun manufacturers and sellers and toy makers for advertising and promoting violence. "Collectively they play a central role in inculcating and promoting a national culture of violence -- one which has its echoes in the gunfire on the streets of our major cities," Mrs. King wrote in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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