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Media Institute Opposes FCC Regulation of "Violent" TV Content

FOR RELEASE: November 19, 2004

Contact: Richard T. Kaplar
The Media Institute
703-243-5700

 

Arlington, Va., Oct. 19 - In comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission Oct. 15, The Media Institute argues that expanding FCC authority to regulate television "violence" is neither justified under the current state of the evidence nor permissible under the First Amendment.

From a First Amendment standpoint, restrictions on TV violence would be content based and thus would have to be narrowly tailored to promote a compelling governmental interest. However, the Institute points out, there is no conclusive scientific research demonstrating that exposure to media depictions of violence causes violent behavior in children. Therefore, it cannot be shown that restricting TV violence would further the government's interest in protecting children.

As a practical matter, it would be difficult to define "violence" in any objective way. Moreover, restrictions on violent content without regard to context could easily affect the broadcast of dramatic productions, news coverage, and even sporting events. The potential for overly broad regulation in this area is enormous, the Institute believes.

In addition, there is no justification for regulation because parents can use the V-chip to limit their children's exposure to "violent" programming. And, at a time when 85 percent of American households subscribe to cable and satellite, restricting only broadcast television would cut off only a small portion of children's access to such programming.

"We urge the Commission to report to Congress that the pragmatic and constitutional impediments that stand in the path of creating a regime for regulating 'violent' programming counsel against further legislative or administrative attention," the Institute concludes.

The Media Institute's comments were prepared by Kurt Wimmer and Andrew D. Sherman of Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C. For more information about The Media Institute, visit www.mediainstitute.org.