Efforts to censor violent programs and entertainment fail in House
WASHINGTON, D.C.–The House of Representatives in June struck down measures that would have banned sales of “obscenely violent” and sexually explicit material to minors, and would have required the entertainment industry to create a universal labeling system for products that contain violent content deemed unsuitable for children.
Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) proposed the measure as an amendment to the juvenile justice bill after the shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in late April. Hyde stated that he wanted to establish a standard of “violent obscenity” similar to that prohibiting the sale of pornography to minors. His amendment would have imposed a five-year jail sentence on anyone who sold or rented graphically violent films, video games, pictures, books, sculptures and similar materials to anyone under age 17.
In debating the measure, Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) stated that Congress cannot create a “police force for what is decent.”
An amendment to the bill would have established a system for labeling violent content in audio and visual media products, banned the commercial distribution of unlabeled products after one year, and subjected violators to a fine of $10,000. It also failed.
The National Association of Broadcasters and the National Cable Television Association wrote the members the day before the vote, asking them to give the V-chip a chance to work before considering this type of legislation.
The House backed a nonbinding “sense of Congress” resolution calling the entertainment industry irresponsible in its marketing to American youth and urging it to “curtail portrayals of pointless acts of brutality.” The House also passed a provision sponsored by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) that would require the Surgeon General to issue a report on how violence in the media contributes to youth violence within 18 months. (H.R. 2036)