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TV Violence Hearing Postponed

The Senate Commerce Committee has postponed a planned May 17 hearing on TV violence, according to a committee source, with a bill giving the FCC the power to regulate such violence is unlikely to be introduced next week as initially planned.

The hearing comes in the wake of an FCC report to Congress on the issue in which it said Congress could empower the FCC to regulate violence, as it does indecency, with the FCC suggesting it was ready to use that power.

Word from a staffer to committee member Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who is introducing the bill, was that the committee was having trouble lining up witnesses for the hearing, which is now planned for June (June 26 is one date that has been mentioned). A committee spokeswoman was out of the office, but if they were looking for network types to testify, the conflict could have concerned schedule announcements, with all the network brass unveiling their fall lineups, including Fox and CW on May 17.

Rockefeller's bill will be introduced before the June hearing, said the staffer, and will include some changes reflecting the FCC's report.

What won't change, however, is that it will give the FCC the authority to channel or otherwise regulate TV violence. "That will happen," said the staffer. Whether it will also define what constitutes that violence, as the FCC recommended Congress do, is still unclear," he said, with legislative staffers still working on the wording.
Rockfeller introduced a similar bill as part of a flurry of content-related proposals in the wake of the Janet Jackson reveal, but it did not survive the trimming of those bills necessary to produce an accepatable bill, which eventually was confined simply to boosting the FCC's indecency fines tenfold.
Rockefeller's bill has an uphill climb, given the courts' historic protection of violent speech. Rockefeller has the backing of Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouwe (D- Hawaii), but if past is prologue, there will be hearings and much talk, but eventually little action, at least in terms of legislation that could pass both houses and court muster.