You've seen those little ratings that appear in the corner of
TV screen. You know about the V-Chip. You've heard the "parental
discretion is advised" warnings. But do these safeguards really
filter out the blood and gore for young viewers?
Kevin Saunders, professor at the University of Oklahoma College
Law said "no" to the query in his presentation Thursday to the U.S.
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
Saunders, an expert in violence in the media, questions the
effectiveness of the current attempts to regulate violent images on
"The problem with the V-Chip is that it's just not good enough,"
V-Chips are the devices that will be installed starting next year
in all televisions. They will allow parents to screen out certain
programs based on a rating system devised by television industry,
But Saunders argues it will be several years before there are
sufficient V-Chips in televisions to make any kind of real impact
that parents will not be sufficiently vigilant in activating the
Saunders, who has authored Violence as Obscenity: Limiting the
Media's First Amendment Protection, said that the television
needs some added incentives now -- in addition to the ratings in
the upper left hand corner of the screen -- to keep scary images
out of children's view.
"Right now, it's a purely voluntary system."
Saunders' presentation to the committee advocated that Congress
presently has the power to enact more stringent program restrictions
if it so chooses.
"My position was basically that Congress has the authority to do
more," he said.
At the very least, said Saunders, programmers can practice
channeling to minimize children' exposure to violent images.
Channeling is a concept that arose from the landmark decision FCC v.
Pacifica Foundation in 1978. That case involved comedian George
Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words" routine that was broadcast on New York
radio on a weekday afternoon.
The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately determined that the FCC could
channel the broadcast of indecent language into hours when the
would be fast asleep.
Saunders argues that while the Pacifica case dealt with language,
the high court's definition of "indecent" -- as material not in
conformance with accepted standards of morality -- can apply to
violence as well.
Thursday's presentation came as a result of much concern, among
the industry and lawmakers, that rating guidelines that would go
the V-Chip are arbitrary, Saunders explained.
"There's a lot of dissatisfaction with the V-Chip -- with not
enough information in the ratings that go with it," he said.
Dara Derryberry Prentice has joined Crowe & Dunlevy's Oklahoma
City office as an associate.
Prentice is a 1995 graduate of Oklahoma City School of Law, where
she was editor-in-chief of the Oklahoma City Law Review. As a
recipient of the 1994-95 Outstanding Academic Achievement Award and
the 1994 Oklahoma Bar Association Award for Outstanding Graduate,
Prentice also received American Jurisprudence awards in 13
while in law school. …