Skip to main content

FCC Opens TV-Violence Inquiry

The Federal Communications Commission isn't waiting for a legislative mandate to investigate TV violence. Responding to requests from numerous representatives and senators, the commission Wednesday opened an official inquiry.

The inquiry was spurred by a request made in March by over three dozen members of the House Commerce Committee that it 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. However, it was considered a "deal-killer" within the bill that might not survive to the final version. 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 the V-Chip and other violence-blocking technology; if they are deemed ineffective, the FCC will investigate if it can ban violent programming when children are most likely to be in the audience (as it does now with indecency). The inquiry will also consider the possibility of regulating violence on cable and satellite TV, and in which venue it might have greater authority to do so.

The FCC takes as fact, citing various studies, "the harmful effects of media violence on children." But it also seeks any evidence of positive or preventative impact of fantasy violence.

Commissioner Michael Copps released a separate statement supporting the inquiry -- with some complaints. He stated that the effort was overdue and that it will ask questions that Copps feels have already been answered in some of the very studies the FCC cites.

"It is only unfortunate that it took a request from members of the House of Representatives for us to consider this important issue," he said. "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, and responses to those comments are due Oct. 15.