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FCC Opens Inquiry Into TV Violence

Responding to calls from Congress, the FCC has opened a comprehensive inquiry into violence that will cover everything from V-chips to how violent content is regulated.

The inquiry, which was officially opened on July 28, was spurred in March when more than three dozen members of the House Commerce Committee asked for a look into "the issue of excessively violent broadcast television programming and its impact on children."

The effort would have been mandated by a Senate indecency bill now pending in Congress. The FCC, whose members have all expressed interest in the issue, didn't wait to learn the bill's fate.

The inquiry will investigate the amount of violence on TV and whether some types are more detrimental than others. Also, it will look into the V-chip and other violence-blocking technology; if they are deemed ineffective, the FCC will investigate whether it can ban violent programming when children are most likely to be watching (as it does with indecency). The inquiry will also consider the possibility of regulating violence on cable and satellite TV, as well as determining in which venue it might have greater authority to do so.

That media violence is harmful to kids the FCC accepts as a fact, citing various studies. But it also is seeking any evidence of a positive or preventive effect of fantasy violence, such as children's cartoons.

Commissioner Michael Copps released a separate statement supporting the inquiry but registering some complaints. He states that the effort is overdue and that it will ask questions that he feels have already been answered in some of the very studies the FCC cites.

"It is unfortunate that it took a request from members of the House of Representatives for us to consider this important issue," he says. "Hundreds of studies over decades document the harmful impact that exposure to graphic and excessive media violence has on the physical and mental health of our children. ... Yet the commission today seems to ignore this wealth of scientific data, even going so far as to ask in this notice whether there are benefits of exposure to televised violence by our children."

Comments are due Sept. 15; responses to those comments are due Oct. 15.