Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Regulation from within or without? It's TV Industry's Choice-

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Regulation from within or without? It's TV Industry's Choice-

Article excerpt

THE UNEASY RELATIONSHIP between television and government in America is undergoing new tests in a variety of areas. Some of the issues involve sex and violence in TV programming, while others have to do with more familiar territory for politicians - money and campaigns.

On Friday, Missouri's Sen. John Ashcroft and a couple of his colleagues fired off a letter to executives in the broadcast, cable and entertainment industries complaining about the new ratings system for TV shows. Ashcroft & Co. say the age-based ratings don't give enough information about the programs for parents to decide whether to allow their children to watch certain shows.

The senators want a system that tells more about the levels of sex, vulgar language and violence in programming. And they warned that government-imposed ratings could result if the industry fails to act. Meanwhile, new revelations about how big money is raised for political campaigns are prompting lively debates about television's role in crafting a solution for the scandals. Most of the escalating costs of campaigns is due to the escalating desire of candidates and their supporters to buy television advertising. So those who want to reduce the amount of money spent on campaigning reason that limiting the cost of air time for political ads would do the trick. Several campaign-finance reform ideas backed by members of Congress - including Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri - call for free TV time for candidates who abide by voluntary spending limits. Paul Taylor, director of the Free TV for Straight Talk Coalition, suggests that television stations be required to provide a "bank" of free time for candidates. Both Taylor and Ashcroft say the government has a powerful hammer with which to persuade broadcasters: the right to use an additional spectrum on the airwaves for digital broadcasting, the new technology that promises to revolutionize broadcast media and markets. The Federal Communications Commission announced recently that it was giving away those rights, estimated by some to be worth billions of dollars. For that, reformers argue, television shouldn't protest too much about a few more regulations. …

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