Rockefeller Continues To Push For Oversight Of Violent Media Content

Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) indicated Wednesday that he would continue to push for government oversight of violent media content.

That came at a sparsely attended hearing on revisiting the Children's Television Act in a digital world.

Rockefeller has tried before to expand the FCC's oversight to include violent programming, but without success.

Rockefeller openened the hearing saying that it was not about the media "violence and promiscutiy" he was so concerned about, but said that would be the subject of future inquiries.

He said he had not been deterred by the reactions of his fellow Senators to a hearing last year at which he featured a clip reel of violent programming. He said he was shot down, mostly by members of his own party, because of concerns over the First Amendment. "there was an automatic mindset that because the First Amendment exists, you cannot even be talking about this so don't waste my time. I was furious, and I was undeterred."

Waxing a bit philosophic, Rockefeller said the baseline of that inquiry, as well as the revisit of the Children's TV Act, should be a general fact-finding on today's kids. "It occurs to me how little I know about children, and how little I know about teenagers and what goes inside their minds that may not have to do with televisions and selections of that sort. But, what are the pressures of the modern world that make today's child different if they are."

He said he was looking for books or studies that might help.

At that hearing, James Steyer, who heads Common Sense Media, argued that there was a way to craft regulations that both addressed Rockefeller's content concerns, which Steyer shared, and could be reconciled with the First Amendment, which he added he teaches about as a law professor at Stanford.

Rockefeller thanked Steyer for giving up part of his vacation to attend the hearing, saying "we're going to need you to help us work this fine line, if in fact we are going to do it, which I would very much like to."

"I want to plow ahead," he said, "and I am determined to do it."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.