The V-Chip Debate: Content Filtering from Television to the Internet

By Monroe E. Price | Go to book overview

sion opened up by digital broadcasting mean that a single channel could transmit ratings information that could allow a television equipped with software to block programs based on detailed ratings. The FCC should investigate the degree that its decisions about the V-chip technology can ultimately encourage the use of multiple ratings systems.


Notes
1.
Federal Communications Commission, 1997, p. 3.
2.
For a discussion of congressional incentives and the delegation of decision-making power to agencies, see Arnold, 1990, and McCubbins, Noll, and Weingast, 1987.
3.
See Valenti, Anstrom, and Fritts, 1997, p. 7. In their joint reply comments, the National Association of Broadcasters, National Cable Television Association, and Motion Picture Association of America stress that the issue before the FCC is only whether the TV Parental Guidelines are "acceptable." These organizations note ( 1997, p. 2): "Whether the Guidelines can or should be fine-tuned -- or whether another system would also be 'acceptable' -- is not the issue."
4.
Valenti, Anstrom, and Fritts, 1997, p. 8.
5.
See the reply comments of the Center for Media Education, et al., 1997, summary page 2.
6.
See Markey, et al., 1997, p. 1.
7.
See Sunstein, 1990, for a discussion of frameworks used to evaluate regulations. Landes and Posner ( 1987, p. 16) offer a simple definition of efficiency: "We use efficiency throughout this book in the Kaldor-Hicks (or potential Pareto superiority) sense, in which a policy change is said to be efficient if the winners from the change could compensate the losers, that is, if the winners gain more from the change than the losers lose, whether or not there is actual compensation."
8.
For a more detailed discussion of the economics of television violence and empirical evidence for many of theories discussed here, see Hamilton, 1998. The incentives that broadcasters face to broadcast particular types of programming are also described in Hamilton, 1996.
9.
Pollution and television violence are both examples of negative externalities, which are costs that are not incorporated into marketplace decisions. Economists define externalities by two conditions ( Baumol and Oates, 1988, p. 17):
Condition 1: An externality is present whenever some individual's (say A's) utility or production relationships include real (that is, nonmonetary) variables, whose values are chosen by others (persons, corporations, governments) without particular attention to the effects on A's welfare. . . .
Condition 2: The decision maker, whose activity affects others' utility levels or enters their production functions, does not receive (pay) in compensation for this activity an, amount equal in value to the resulting benefits (or costs) to others.

A parallel between pollution and violence exists if violence on television generates negative impacts on society. The National Television Violence Study ( 1996) provides an excellent overview of the research demonstrating how violent programming may generate aggression, fear, and desensitization among some child and adult viewers. The NTVS emphasizes that the context of how violence is portrayed may increase or decrease the likelihood that the programming may have undesirable effects on some audiences. Though children are unintended audiences for violent programs aimed at adults, the second year research report by the National Television Violence Study researchers ( 1997) indicates that programming specifically aimed at children contains a high level of violence and uses violent portrayals that carry high risks for young viewers.

10.
See Magat and Viscusi, 1992, for empirical evidence on the attributes of successful labeling efforts for hazardous chemical products. Ippolito and Mathios ( 1990) demonstrate how information provisions about the health effects of fiber caused consumers to alter their cereal purchases and led producers to engage in product innovation to respond to changes in consumer demand.
11.
The parent survey (based on 679 completed questionnaires) by Cantor, Stutman, and Duran also focused on the impact of television on children's fright and risk-taking reactions. The results of the survey were presented to the industry committee developing the rating system, which initially chose an age-based rather than content-based system. Comments filed with the FCC by Cantor ( 1997) summarize the polling data on parents' views about the format of television program ratings.

-151-

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