The Federal Communications Commission has asked Congress to grant the government power over the violence on television shows. The FCC has concluded that regulating TV violence is for the public's best interest especially during the time of 6am to 10pm when children are most likely to watch TV. The FCC for years has had jurisdiction over what broadcaster's air on their shows and many on air personalities have come under the gun for airing sexually and indecent speech however this will be the first time that the FCC has had say so over TV programming. Things may heat up between television stations and Washington should this recommendation be taken into consideration.
According to a report by Congress which was the result of thousands of comments and complaints from parents to academic experts states that Congress has authority to deem what is considered "excessive violence" and could extend the authority to cable television. To do so Congress could be interfering with the First Amendment since consumers buy their cable TV programming.
In order to curb TV violence, the FCC would have to clearly state what is considered violent. As of to date what the FCC considers violent is a very broad guideline but it does leave the final decision up to Congress. Lawmakers as well as regulators agree that TV violence has escalated severely in the last few years. According to Kevin Martin, Chairman of the FCC, "I think it would be better if the industry addressed this on its own, but we can also give parents help through regulation".
Wendy Morigi, spokesperson for Senator Jay Rockefeller D-W.Va, said that the FCC's conclusions will form the foundation of legislation that is being drafted. Senator Rockefeller is also a Commerce Committee member. TV can be either a hindrance or a help to children. Research has indicated that children at times react to watching violent TV shows by exhibiting high levels of anxiety and being aggressive towards other children. However there are times when children are taught a lesson through violence such as showing them through television the outcome of violent acts against others.
Martin has recommended in the past a plan to have a system that allows consumers to buy only the cable channels they want however the cable companies quickly opposed the idea. Large media companies like Viacom own many of the cable channels. Viacom owns MTV, Nickelodeon and Spike cable channels. Rupert Murdoch who owns News Corp. has the FX channel whose prime time show is "The Shield", a police show aimed at troubled and corrupt police officers. FX premiered last month "The Riches" who in one episode showed the graphic and bloody aftermath of a violent car crash. "24" on News Corp's Fox network shows graphic torture scenes on a regular basis. Viacom and News Corp. will not make any remarks until the report is released.
NBC Universal that owns the Sci Fi cable channel was also contacted but did not return any calls. One of the Sci Fi channel's regular shows is "Battlestar Galactica" which regularly shows torture and fight scenes. The control over children watching violent shows is in the hands of their parents. Technology has progressed to having all cable and satellite setups to include parental controls. In 1996, V Chip technology was introduced but unfortunately not enough parents use, this according to Adam Thierer a senior fellow member at the Progress amp; Freedom Foundation.
According to a report released by the Parents Television Council an advocacy group monitoring TV shows for their content states that no technology for parental control in the world can function efficiently preventing children from watching violent television shows if the networks do not give the TV programs their appropriate ratings. All of the parent controls available including the V chip is based on a TV show rating and since the TV shows are not rated correctly children are watching shows that they should not be watching at all.