Attorney General Janet Reno warned the U.S. television industry Wednesday that it must substantially curb the amount of violence in TV fare or the government will take action.
"I want to use this forum to challenge television to substantially reduce its violent programming now or else the government will have to intervene," Reno said at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing.
She said a voluntary solution by the television industry, with specific deadlines and standards for compliance, would be preferable to new government regulation.
But Reno made clear that the government would intervene if the industry, ranging from the television networks to independent stations and cable operators, fails to act.
"I am tired of the shoulder-shrugging and the finger-pointing," she said. "All I am asking today is that the entertainment industry . . . acknowledge their role and their responsibilities and pledge to work with us to use every tool they have to address this problem, starting by doing something now."
Parental advisories and the industry's standards for depicting violence are positive but "extremely small, itty-bitty steps," she told the committee.
The committee is considering legislation that would ban violent programming when children comprise a substantial portion of the audience.
It also is reviewing measures that would require warnings before and during programs that contain violence or "unsafe gun practices" and would mandate a government survey four times a year on the amount of television violence.
Reno rejected charges by critics that the legislation amounts to a form of censorship that would violate constitutional free-speech guarantees.
She maintained that all three measures would pass constitutional muster and may have to be adopted if the industry fails to act on its own. …