Simon Offers Bills To Pave Way For TV Violence Curbs
Apr. 18, 1986
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., says he wants to pave the way for broadcasters to reduce violence on television.
Simon said Thursday he is introducing two bills to help television executives adopt program content guidelines to protect Americans from overexposure to violence.
One bill would provide an exemption for broadcasting companies and trade associations from federal antitrust laws so they can discuss television violence without fear of prosecution.
The second bill would direct the Federal Communications Commission to oversee a ''definitive'' study of television violence and report its findings to Congress within a year.
Simon, who has considered television violence legislation for three years, made it clear he believes such violence is harmful.
''We're seeing too much violence on television for our own mental health, particularly the mental health of our children,'' Simon said at a news conference.
He cited reports by the Surgeon General's office, an Attorney General's task force and the American Academy of Pediatrics suggesting that TV violence promotes aggressive behavior and an overly fearful view of the world.
The senator has said for months that if broadcasters would not take action to reduce television violence, he would introduce bills to bring government into the picture.
Simon met last October with representatives of the three largest television networks, cable TV operators and independent stations in an effort to negotiate a violence-reduction program.
The television executives were cool to a proposal Simon made then for violence warning signs on programs. He suggested broadcasters voluntarily air messages warning parents that certain programs were violent and have a ''V'' symbol, standing for violence, in the left corner of the TV screen throughout such programs.
When asked why he didn't propose legislation forcing such a warning system on the industry, Simon answered, ''Well, I'm not sure that's the ideal answer. I think ideally, rather than warnings, (we should) simply remove some things from the screen.''
He said broadcasters should meet with experts on psychology and see ''what we can do to improve what takes place in the living rooms of America.''
''I'm leaving this up to the networks, to independents, to cable,'' Simon said. ''I think ideally they could adopt certain guidelines - for example, that no one commit suicide playing Russian roulette.''
Simon said 35 people reportedly died imitating the Russian roulette scene in the movie, ''The Deer Hunter,'' after it was broadcast on network television.
The senator said he was prompted to introduce the antitrust exemption bill because at least one television executive told him last fall that broadcasters could not huddle without the threat of legal action.
Pam Haslam, director of communications for the CBS Broadcast Group, said CBS believes it has ''a strong (programming) review process already in place'' and said the network probably will oppose the Simon bills.
Officials of ABC and NBC said those networks had not seen the Simon legislation and would have no immediate comment.