TV Violence Foe Janet Reno Dies

Janet Reno, the first woman to be U.S. attorney general and arguably one of the driving forces behind the TV V-chip/ratings system, has died at 78 from complications from Parkinson’s disease, according to multiple reports.

Efforts by Reno and the late Sen. Paul Simon in the early 1990s led, ultimately, to the adoption of the V-chip, whose principal House proponent and author is now Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

In the early 1990s, Reno, a Clinton appointee, sat down with broadcast and cable TV execs to tell them she thought TV was part of the societal violence problem and had to be part of the solution.

Sounding a little like FCC chairman Newton Minow, who famously dressed down TV for violent content in his "Vast Wasteland" speech, Reno said the promise of TV had been "vastly unfulfilled," saying TV violence had become "as central to the life of our young people as homework and playgrounds" and that the link between TV violence and violence in society was real and ominous.

In a Hill hearing, Reno said TV execs should provide parental advisories but also stumped for soul-searching by execs leading to less violent programming.

Media outlets began airing anti-violence PSAs, by mid-decade were instituting a voluntary parental advisory ratings system, and by the end of the decade there was also the V-chip technology in TVs that could block programming based on those ratings.

"The United States is a stronger, safer and more just place because of Janet Reno’s leadership, and she will be dearly missed," current U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch said.

"Before she was U.S. attorney general and a candidate for Florida governor, Janet Reno served as state attorney in Miami during one of the most tumultuous and uncertain decades in our state's history. Janet Reno dedicated her life to the law and to public service on behalf of Florida and the nation," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

"For the last two decades, including several years as U.S. attorney general, Janet Reno courageously showed the world that being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease is not an ending, but a beginning of the opportunity to prove one can live a long, consequential and even strenuous life just the way she did. My thoughts and prayers are with Janet Reno's family, friends and former colleagues as they mourn her loss."

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.