Washington -- The White House announced last Friday that
National Cable Television Association president Decker Anstrom was among 40 guests invited
to address youth-violence issues at a May 10 meeting President Clinton called in the wake
of the Columbine High School massacre last month.
"These are important issues, and I look forward to
discussing the many positive steps cable companies have taken to address the issue of
violence." Anstrom said.
A White House spokeswoman released about 12 names of summit
attendees, but the list did not include the heads of any of the major Hollywood studios,
some of whom refused to appear at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing last week.
The spokeswoman said executives from movie, gun and
video-game companies had been invited and would likely be represented.
Clinton is planning to preside over a two-hour meeting that
the White House is calling "A Session on Children, Violence and Responsibility,"
although Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) two weeks ago called
on the White House to convene an "entertainment summit."
In addition to Anstrom, the White House invited from the
media: Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America; Hilary Rosen,
president of the Recording Industry Association of America; Edward Fritts, president of
the National Association of Broadcasters; and Steve Case, president and CEO of America
From outside of the media, the list includes: Roxanne
Spillett, president of Boys and Girls Clubs of America; Ginny Markill, president-elect of
the National PTA; Pam Eakes, president of Mothers Against Violence in America; Nancy
Dickey, president of the American Medical Association; Minnesota Judge Alan Page; the Rev.
Eugene Rivers of Boston; and Ken Salazar, attorney general of Colorado.
The White House said first lady Hillary Clinton would join
President Clinton, and Vice President Gore would be present with his wife, Tipper.
Attorney General Janet Reno and education secretary Richard Riley are also expected to
Reno will be able to tell Clinton firsthand about what
cable is doing to address the violence issue. She appeared at a press conference in New
York last Friday that outlined an unusual alliance between the Department of Justice, MTV:
Music Television and the U.S. Department of Education.
The three organizations have partnered to create an
anti-violence youth-action guide and compact disc that will be distributed to more than 1
million youths across the country this year.
MTV president Judy McGrath and Reno jointly unveiled the
initiative, which will form one prong of the network's "Fight for Your Rights:
Take a Stand Against Violence" campaign. According to McGrath, the press conference
was planned "way before the bloodshed at Columbine High."
The 24-page action-guide booklet details specific ways
young people can reduce violence, such as conflict resolution and advocacy programs, and
it is being packaged with a CD containing music by artists such as Lauryn Hill, Backstreet
Boys and Alanis Morissette.
Referring to the Littleton massacre, Reno said,
"Let's not cast blame" on any single factor -- be it guns, the Internet, or
TV -- as the cause of that tragedy.
"We are all responsible," Reno said. "There
are many pieces to this puzzle, and all Americans must come together to fit the pieces
together ... Let's stop blaming and find solutions."
As for the DOJ working with MTV on this youth anti-violence
project, Reno said, "We need to be sure to get the message out though the medium
[youths] listen to."
Youths can ask for the free CD via a special toll-free
hotline being operated by the DOJ. The number appears in an MTV anti-violence
Recording artists The Goo Goo Dolls, who also spoke at the
press conference, will be distributing the CD and guide during their 50-city tour this
year, as well. McGrath said there have already been 90,000 requests for the CD.
In response to questions from reporters, McGrath said MTV
already has a rigorous standards process regarding which music videos it airs, adding that
the network was "looking more seriously and more closely at it."
Reno also said she had suggested that MTV do a program that
would show youths and police officers communicating in a positive way.
Gore got a jump on Monday's meeting by announcing last
week that 15 of the nation's top Internet companies -- including @Home Network, AOL
and Microsoft Corp. -- agreed to roll out by July Web-based tools for parents to block
their children's access to inappropriate Web pages and to monitor which Web sites and
chat rooms their children have visited. One tool will even allow parents to limit their
kids' time on the Internet.
Federal Communications Commission chairman William Kennard
joined the effort by announcing that the FCC's Web page would include information on
how to buy and use filtering software, how to block 900-number calls and how to obtain
cable-TV "lock boxes."
The White House agreed to stage the event after teen-agers
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot and killed 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High
School in Littleton, Colo., before committing suicide -- a massacre that some said
resulted from the killers' exposure to Internet hate groups, violent movies and video
games, as well as from their easy access to guns.
Earlier in the week, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said he
wanted the Clinton administration to investigate companies that market violent music and
video games to children.
At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, Hatch appeared to
announce that he was planning to offer an amendment to pending youth-violence legislation
that would mandate such a probe.
Hatch claimed companies are rating video games for adults
but undermining that effort by marketing the products to children. He cited as an example
the appearance of an advertisement for adult-rated video game "Resident Evil 2"
in the magazine Sports Illustrated for Kids.
Meanwhile, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) said he favored
the creation of a national commission to study the "root causes" of the killings
and suicides that occurred at Columbine.
Valenti acknowledged in testimony that some movie violence
was excessive, but he refused to criticize any film by name. He agreed to turn over the
MPAA's movie-attendance data to the committee and to ask his member companies to turn
over records that might reveal whether violent films are marketed to children.
Valenti insisted families, schools and churches were
equipped to instill in children "an impenetrable moral shield" that no
gun-blazing, blood-flowing Hollywood production could erode.
William Bennett, the former Reagan administration education
secretary and a prominent critic of mass-media violence, responded by saying, "Jack,
there is no impenetrable shield."
Bennett showed 25-second murder scenes from the movies Scream
and The Basketball Diaries that he said were disturbing examples of excessive
violence aimed at a young audience. He accused Hollywood executives of copying the
marketing tactics of the tobacco industry to "hook" kids on violence.