Does Lurid Media Target Children? Congress Seeks Cause of Youth Violence

Article excerpt

Congress should study whether the entertainment industry markets violence to youth the same way tobacco companies were accused of marketing smoking to children, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch said yesterday.

"Many Americans were justifiably outraged when it was discovered that tobacco companies marketed cigarettes to children," the Utah Republican said at a Capitol Hill hearing yesterday. "I believe that we should be equally concerned if we find that violent music and video games are being marketed to children."

Legislators of both parties have called for a broad examination of the culture in the wake of last month's shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado. Many blame violent entertainment for creating an environment where the two teen-age killers could plan their methodical assault on the school, killing 13 persons before turning guns on themselves.

"We all know how susceptible . . . young people are to that violence" in the media, said Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican.

Mr. Hatch said ultraviolent music, video games and movies could be restricted to adults only.

Limiting access by children "does not raise the same constitutional concerns that a general prohibition on such material would entail," Mr. Hatch said.

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat and a fierce critic of media violence, agreed.

If entertainment companies "continue to market death and degradation to our children - and pay no heed to the carnage - then one way or another, the government will act," he said.

The film industry, however, says the problem cannot be solved by new laws.

"What happened at Columbine High School was a senseless act of mindless violence," said Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, in written testimony from yesterday's hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. …