FCC report suggests TV violence limits

Times Staff Writer

Congress could authorize the regulation of excessively violent television shows without violating the Constitution, according to a draft of a long-awaited report by the Federal Communications Commission, which also found that increased blood and mayhem on TV has at least short-term effects on children.

Violence could be treated similarly to broadcast indecency, with its airing prohibited during times when children might be watching, an FCC official said Thursday. The official, who declined to be named because the FCC hasn’t officially adopted the findings, also said Congress could order cable and satellite TV providers to allow viewers to buy channels individually or in family-friendly packages to limit how much violence children see.

Although the report, requested in 2004 by a bipartisan group of 39 House members, still must be approved by the FCC, it is not expected to change substantially, the official said.

The conclusions about the constitutionality of regulating TV violence would be controversial. The Supreme Court ruled in 1978 that the FCC could regulate indecency on broadcast TV and radio, but the court has never ruled on regulation of violence.


Broadcasters are suing the FCC because they contend that the commission’s tougher indecency policies since 2004 are arbitrary and unconstitutional. Defining excessive violence could be even more complicated.

The FCC’s draft report acknowledges the difficulty of defining violence but says it could be done constitutionally, according to the official.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W. Va.) has said he plans to reintroduce legislation he unsuccessfully pushed in 2005 to give the FCC authority to regulate violent shows.

Broadcasters have strongly opposed any additional regulation of content, while cable and satellite TV providers have balked at allowing viewers to buy channels individually.

To fend off complaints about objectionable programs, the TV industry banded together last year to launch a $300-million public campaign to teach parents how to use the V-chip and other blocking technology.

The FCC report found that such technology is helpful but is not enough because of inconsistent ratings and other flaws, the official said.

The report follows the release of a study last month by the Parents Television Council that said TV violence had reached epidemic proportions, increasing 75% in six years. The watchdog group opposes additional government regulation but that would be necessary if the entertainment industry doesn’t “clean up its act,” said Dan Isett, the council’s director of corporate and government affairs.