June 2007

FCC reports on kids, violent television content


On April 26 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its long-awaited report on the issue of violent television programming and its effects on children. Its recommendations for changes and congressional action were applauded by AFA.

“Violence is, without question, an imitative behavior,” said Randy Sharp, AFA director of special projects. “It’s time for Congress to step into the ring and stop the rampage of television violence by adopting the FCC’s commonsense recommendations.”

The report said there is sufficient evidence suggesting that TV violence does have a deleterious effect on the children who watch it, necessitating action. “[R]esearch indicates exposure to violence in the media can increase aggressive behavior in children, at least in the short term,” the FCC said.

The report, available at www.fcc.gov, cited the Surgeon General’s report on Youth Violence, the Federal Trade Commission, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and many other professional health organizations which believe that TV violence is harmful to children.

Producers for the major television networks and cable channels generally argue that the current system – with its TV ratings system and televisions equipped with blocking technology such as the V-chip – is sufficient protection for kids.

The FCC disagreed, however, arguing in the report that “the current technology ‘fix,’ including but not limited to consumer understanding of the technology and voluntary ratings system, is not effective in protecting children from violent programming.”

One of the FCC’s recommendations is that cable providers could voluntarily – or else under compulsion from Congress – give consumers the ability to select for themselves which channels they want coming into their homes.

The FCC noted that other countries give consumers such a la carte freedom. “In Hong Kong, for example, consumers can select and pay for only the channels they want,” the report said. “A family that wants to watch sports, movies, news and children’s programming can receive 15 free channels plus a selection of 11 additional digital channels … for $27.50 per month. To get the same channels in Washington, D.C., [under the current U.S. system,] it would cost $82.00 per month.”

The goal of such a la carte systems would be consumer choice and control over TV content. “Customers then would be able to receive – and pay for – only that programming that they are comfortable bringing into their homes, the report concluded,” the FCC said.