Reno threatens to use government restrictions to control violence on television
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Attorney General Janet Reno gave the television industry an ultimatum on Oct. 20: significantly reduce television violence by Jan. 1 or the government will enact laws to do it for you.
Citing expert research and statistics, Reno called upon the entertainment industry to acknowledge its responsibilities and pledge to work with lawmakers to address the increasing problem of violence in America.
Reno, the star witness at the Senate Commerce Committee hearings on three bills targeting television violence, said that regulation of TV violence is constitutionally permissible under a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that allowed the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the hours during which indecent programming could be aired. Reno said each bill under consideration passes constitutional scrutiny.
However, network executives on the witness panel and American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel Robert S. Peck disagreed with the attorney general. Peck called the bills “unconstitutionally vague,” saying the speech being prohibited must be specified.
Sen. Earnest Hollings (D-S.C.), committee chairman, introduced a bill restricting the hours of violent programming to late-night, when children would be least likely to be watching.
Legislation introduced by Sen. David Durenburger (R-Minn.) calls for parental warnings to be presented before any violent programming during the hours when children may be watching.
The third bill, by Sens. Byron Dorgan (D- N.D.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), requires the FCC to evaluate and report quarterly on the quantity of violent television programming.
Although Reno said she approves of the bills under consideration, she said the best course of action on television violence would be action taken outside the government beginning with industry officials, parents, and educators.
(S. 1383, S. 943, S.973)