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Code red

If, as expected, the House next week passes a bill creating an antitrust exemption to "allow" the entertainment industry to devise its own marketing and/or content guidelines, can a government-dictated programming code be far behind? The answer is no. And if anyone had doubts about it, the bill spells it out with the kind of big, flashing letters usually reserved for the "cheap motel" scene in film noir classics. The bill would direct the TV, movie, videogame and music industries to draft a code of conduct "designed to alleviate the negative impact" of violent or sexual content on children (not to mention the political pressure from Washington). After a year, two government officials, the attorney general and the FTC chairman, would then report to a third government body, the Congress, on whether the result passed government muster. So much for voluntary guidelines; so much for content unchilled by government.