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Gore Backs Use of a Chip in TVs to Block Programs : Violence: Device would allow parents to exercise discretion, vice president says. He also calls for an industrywide voluntary rating system.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Challenging Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) over who is tougher on television violence, Vice President Al Gore said Friday that he supports adding a device to television sets to block violent or sexually explicit programs and called on the television industry to institute a voluntary rating system like that used for feature films.

“We want to find ways for parents to have an easier time exercising appropriate control over messages . . . that they feel are not appropriate for their own children,” Gore said in an interview with several reporters.

“I think there’s great support in the entertainment industry for a package of solutions to this problem that does not involve censorship but does enhance the power of parents,” he added.

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Gore noted that Dole, who is running for President, opposes a proposal to require that television sets be equipped with a device--sometimes called a “V-chip"--that would allow viewers to block programs they consider too violent or obscene.

“I disagree with him strongly on it,” Gore said. “I think parents should be allowed this additional power, even though some important industry voices are against it.”

In a speech in Los Angeles in May, Dole excoriated entertainment industry executives for producing “nightmares of depravity” in film, television and music.

However, Dole also has opposed legislation to require television manufacturers to include a V-chip on new sets and broadcasters to add signals to their programs to make the system work. He has said that these proposals would amount to excessive government intrusion.

The V-chip measure and an amendment mandating ratings for television programs passed the Senate as part of a massive telecommunications deregulation bill last month. The House has not yet passed its version of the bill.

Gore and other Clinton Administration officials have supported the measures quietly but made no effort to stake out a public position until the vice president’s remarks Friday. Gore and his wife, Tipper, are presiding over a conference on the impact of entertainment media on family values beginning Sunday in Nashville.

“Blaming the media is a sport, not a solution,” Gore said, implicitly criticizing Dole’s Los Angeles speech.

“There is no single silver bullet or magic answer that solves every problem. . . . " he said. “The industry itself has a necessary role to play. New developments in technology can make a difference. The advertisers can play a role, the creative community can play a role, teachers can play a role and parents have the most critical role of all.”

Gore said that he believes the entertainment industry agrees with his approach.

“This is not designed to install some sword of Damocles over the industry’s head,” he said. “Surely they understand the growing concern of families in this country without that being underscored yet again. . . . They know that the country is searching for a way to solve this complex problem. And they’d like to find a way that is good and positive and that doesn’t impinge upon the First Amendment.”

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Some broadcasting and cable industry executives have objected to the measures, complaining that the devices could be expensive to install, might block too many programs and could be a step toward censorship.

But Gore said that charges of censorship are “just plainly wrong.”

Gore added that he opposes another measure that the Senate passed last month, making it a crime to transmit obscene material through the Internet or other computer networks.

“I’d prefer an industry-based solution that combines [several] elements. . . . blocking technologies that empower parents to be discriminating, industry-based initiatives to facilitate the use of such technologies,” he said.

“For some of us, we will have to ask our children how to operate these technologies, but maybe we can find a way around that,” he added.


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