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Broadcasters tune out Clinton's call for v-chip


January 30, 1996
Web posted at: 7:20 a.m. EST

From Correspondent Paul Vercammen

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Once just a mere idea, the violence chip, or v-chip, is becoming a campaign issue, even though it may never become a reality.

As his re-election campaign revs up, President Clinton is pushing for the device that would allow television viewers to block out undesirable programs.

During his State of the Union address last week, Clinton called on the entertainment industry to clean up its act.

"To the media, I say you should create movies ... CDs and television shows you would want your own children and grandchildren to enjoy," Clinton urged. (68K AIFF sound or 68K WAV sound)

Clinton's praise of the v-chip received mixed reviews from television industry heavyweights who recently gathered at a Las Vegas broadcasters' convention.

"After the election, we should look at how much energy our politicians put into this issue," said Steven Cannell, a television producer whose credits include The A-Team and 21 Jump Street. (85K AIFF sound or 85K WAV sound)

Cannell believes the television industry can put its own checks on violent content.

"We have to say, 'Okay, are these acts of violence necessary to the story telling?' and if they're not, then they have to be excised," Cannell said. "We've been doing that I think very effectively on television for 30 years."

Members of the big four broadcast networks say they don't need government intervention. They point to the recently released UCLA study that showed CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox had been responsible in curbing violent programming.

"I think the networks have been very responsible in attacking this problem on cutting back on violence and in being responsive in putting up advisories. But as a matter of principle, we think there's a better way to deal with the issue of violence than v-chips," said Peter Lund, president and CEO of CBS.


Clinton believes a v-chip in conjunction with a rating system on television violence would allow parents to assume more responsibility over what their children watch.

"To make the v-chip work, I challenge the broadcast industry to do what movies have done, rate your programming to help parents to protect their children," Clinton said during his State of the Union address.

The concern for programmers and producers is that the v-chip and a corresponding rating system could stigmatize a show and that, in turn, could lead to the demise of the program.

Jack Fentress, a programming consultant for 100 television stations, believes distributors might dump shows labeled with a V-chip.

"It could become very political. It would be very difficult to say, 'I'm not recommending this show cause its v- chipped,'" he said. "Now we're getting into some form of government censorship."

It may be a form of censorship producers may have to accept. It's not only Clinton calling for restraint. Republican presidential candidates including front-runner Bob Dole are telling broadcasters to tone it down.



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