The House is expected to pass a bill this week that would give the entertainment industry an antitrust exemption to create "voluntary guidelines" for content the industry "deems inappropriate for children."
Lobbyists for the relevant trade associations-which include the Motion Picture Association of America, National Association of Broadcasters, the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association, Recording Industry Association of America and the Interactive Digital Software Association-are working to kill the bill, but, because it comes late in the Congressional session, they are not optimistic about their chances.
"If Congress is unified and wants to pass this bill, it will pass, and it's irrelevant what these industries do at this point," said one source.
The bill would require executives from the movie, music, videogame and TV-programming industries to come up with guidelines "designed to alleviate the negative impact" of various forms of violent and sexual content on children. After a year, the attorney general and the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission would report to Congress on the extent to which the industry has developed acceptable guidelines.
It's the report that has the industry nervous. Lobbyists see it as a potential tool the government can use to force restrictions, such as requiring broadcasters, cable and satellite to limit violent or sexual programming to late hours.
According to sources, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) went to House Judiciary Committee member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and freshman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and asked them to sponsor the measure. If it passes as expected, sources say Hatch could shepherd the measure through the Senate.
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