Sens. Seek FCC Sex-and-Violence Review

Washington-Accusing TV stations of aiming gratuitous sex and violence at children, four U.S. senators are calling on the Federal Communications Commission to engage in a broad examination to determine whether broadcasters are serving the public interest, as required by law.

The letter, sent May 25 to FCC chairman William Kennard, was signed by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.). It described large portions of primetime programming as "glorified violence" and "explicit sexual conduct" that could be characterized as indecent and punishable under FCC rules.

Citing various surveys showing a sharp upswing in sex and violence on TV programs viewed by children, the lawmakers urged Kennard "to engage in a broad re-examination of the public-interest standard" and "to review and rearticulate" FCC policies on indecent programming. The letter also requested a review of cable programming.

"We must remember that broadcasters are trustees of a public resource worth billions of dollars, which they get access to free-of-charge, in return for a pledge to act as responsible stewards of the airwaves," the letter said.

The senators said broadcasters do provide rewarding and enriching programming, mentioning such dramas as ER, NYPD Blue and Law & Order and popular game-show hit Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

But they added that those shows appear to be the exception, complaining that too much programming "is contributing to the sexualization of children at a younger and younger age" and harming their moral, emotional and physical development.

The National Association of Broadcasters declined comment on the letter. An FCC spokeswoman did not return a reporter's call.