TV Voilence

Clicker control: Clinton, Congress and the V-chip

remote control

February 29, 1996
Web posted at: 12:00 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Dennis Michael

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- The V-chip, backed by President Clinton and Congress, may soon alter the way everyone watches television and give parents an easy tool to control what their children view.

What's a V-chip?

It's a small chip mandated by the new telecommunication act that television manufacturers are required to install in sets with screens 13 inches or larger. The new TVs should reach the market in about two years.

Clinton and lawmakers called for a single computer chip to block programs. However, manufacturers instead have proposed modifying the existing device that provides for closed-captioned programming.

The result would be the same, the manufacturers say, but the changeover would be less expensive -- "pennies, not dollars," one industry official said.

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Blocking programs nothing new

Electronics stores already offer lockout mechanisms tailored to block offensive programs for certain television models.

The Starsight Program Information System bypasses channels that might be considered offensive while still offering programming for children. The DirecTV satellite system also has a lockout scheme in place.

"Let's say we don't want anything higher than PG (Parental Guidance)," said Bob Marsocci of DirecTV. "Simply put a check mark next to PG and select OK."

ratings limit enforce ratings

Blocking mechanisms such as DirecTV's lock out channels or pay-per-view movies that have motion picture ratings.

The new technology could block out selected shows.

"All we would need is rating information and transmit that as part of our signal. Then that would give parents the ability to lock out individual programs," Marsocci said.

Television executives were meeting with Clinton Thursday to discuss violence and sex on television.

Will television shows rated for adults frighten away sponsors?

Media critic Ken Auletta says it's a "real headache" for networks. (349K AIFF sound or 349K WAV sound)

Whether the networks like it or not, the V-chip and television ratings are an idea whose time has come.

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Reuters contributed to this report.

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