Bill aims to help parents monitor TV for kids

February 27, 1997|By COX NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- On the eve of the first hearing on the television industry's voluntary age-based ratings, congressional critics moved yesterday to effectively require a system that shields children from programs that depict violence.

"The bill gives every distributor of programming a choice: Either rate your programming specifically for violence or move your program to hours when children are not a substantial part of the viewing audience," said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., an author of the "Children's Protection from Violent Programming Act."

Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., introduced the legislation a day before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation was to take a hard look at the television industry's 2-month-old rating system, which has been criticized by parents' groups as too vague to help guide their children's viewing.

Since Jan. 1, most television entertainment programs have been assigned age-based ratings -- TV-Y, or suitable for all children, through TV-M, for mature audiences only -- similar to the ratings on movies. However, critics want content-based ratings of V, S, and L that would rate shows according to their depictions of violence, sex, and foul language.

The entertainment industry earlier vowed to go to court if Congress tried to impose a rating system, calling such legislation "forced speech" and a violation of the First Amendment.

"Obviously there are constitutional concerns" with the bill introduced yesterday, said Walt Wurfel, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters. But he said his group hadn't had time to analyze the legislation and wouldn't comment on it.

Pub Date: 2/27/97

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