TV Execs Vow Stronger Effort to Reduce Violence


Television executives, under pressure from Congress to reduce violence in programs seen by children, pledged Friday to work harder to reduce depictions of mayhem that often are imitated by young viewers.

At a Senate hearing to discuss the issue--the second Congressional proceeding of its kind in eight days--Howard Stringer, president of the CBS Broadcast Group, said the three major networks had adopted an initial set of guidelines last December.

“We have stepped forward,” he said. “But we must do more, and we will.”

Warren Littlefield, president of NBC Entertainment, told the hearing chaired by Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), author of the 1990 Violence in Television Act:


“NBC has gotten the message. . . . We have been and will continue to take steps to scrutinize with even greater intensity the depiction of violence on television.”

The network executives clearly were aware of Congressional threats to impose government restraints if the industry itself fails to solve the problem.

Echoing his two colleagues, Thomas S. Murphy, chairman of Capital Cities/ABC Inc., testified: “The fact that we do a lot to regulate the depiction of violence does not mean that we cannot do more.”

Simon, whose legislation essentially freed industry officials from antitrust sanctions so they could work out voluntary guidelines together, commended the major networks for a set of standards they handed him last December. He said he hoped for further progress this summer at an industrywide conference in Los Angeles that has been called to take additional steps.

Simon chided the cable-TV industry, however, saying it “has not gone as far as the broadcast industry” in developing guidelines.

At a House hearing earlier this month, several members of Congress signaled a growing impatience with the industry’s effort to police itself. Even Congressional liberals who traditionally oppose censorship have said government restraints may be enacted.


For example, Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), said at Friday’s hearing, “Maybe we need to find a way to take back some of those television franchises.”

ABC’s Murphy cautioned that “the government must exercise restraint in interfering with the content of the programming the media portrays. Our founding fathers had the wisdom to recognize the importance of freedom of expression to democratic self-governance. We must guard that freedom zealously.”

Frank J. Biondi Jr., the president of Viacom International, which owns the cable networks Showtime, MTV and Nickelodeon and some local cable operations, said he recognized “the responsibilities incumbent in exercising First Amendment rights. We take those responsibilities quite seriously.”

But he added that “consumer demand . . . is a business reality” and that the movie industry must join the effort to reduce violence.

“Showtime’s subscribers expect and demand to see the latest hit movies unedited, in their full-length theatrical form,” he said.