`THE TRUTH is," says journalist and TV producer Linda Ellerbee,
"that unless you're not watching it, you don't need 3,000 studies
to tell you television is too violent."
When President Bill Clinton, Attorney Gen. Janet Reno, Illinois
Sen. Paul Simon and a bipartisan group of congressional leaders
spoke out against violence in the media, the industry listened.
But what exactly should be done has been a source of hot debate
ever since. Does it mean government regulation, even censorship?
Does it mean self-censorship within the industry? Does it mean
using technology to help parents screen out violent shows?
Nobody seems to have a definitive answer, but the time appears
to have come for producers and broadcasters to start addressing the
question of violence.
Starting in 1993, cable programmers began to sit down and work
out their response. One of their solutions is called "Voices
Against Violence," a set of initiatives to "deglamorize violence on
television; to allow parents to better know and control what their
children may be watching; and generally to reduce the level of
violence seen on television."
The initiatives are:
A "violence rating system," developed in cooperation with
broadcast networks and independent TV stations;
"Viewer discretion technology," employing the so-called
"v-chip" or other appropriate technology to allow parents to
prevent certain programs from being available in the home;
An "outside monitor" to analyze violence in programs and
produce an annual report;
A "parental advisory system," to be used in addition to the
MPAA ratings already given - to movies;
"Standards and practices," with these benchmarks made publicly
available and reviewed periodically;
"Responsible scheduling" of violent shows in later hours;
"Promotional ads: timing and content," to put ads depicting
violence into later time periods, or to alter the content of ads
for earlier time periods;
A "viewer education program," an anti-violence education
campaign directed at young viewers.
The cable industry also laid out plans for programming
initiatives. The centerpiece of this is the "Voices Against
Violence Week," today through March 25 on 51 participating cable
The programming includes - documentary pieces, talk shows,
movies, specials, public-affairs programs and public-service
announcements. CNBC functions as the "anchor" network, providing a
nightly guide to programs on the other participants. …