Draft Bill: Rockefeller Considering Violent Video Legislation

Would Commission Study within 18 months about Impact of Violent Games, Video Programming on Kids

According to a copy of a discussion draft of the legislation, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), chairman of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee and historically one of the loudest voices for media violence regulation, wants to introduce a bill that would require the National Academy of Sciences to study the impact of violent video games and video programming on kids.

The study would be motormanned by the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission.

Commissioning studies is not as threatening a bill as one that would, say, authorize the FCC to regulate video violence as it does indecency, which the chairman has championed before. But it clearly indicates his interest in not letting the violence conversation end when the cable news cycle wheels on to the next big story, though it would have to continue without any immediate input from the study. The study would not be due for a year and a half, at least according to the draft language supplied by a source.

The goal of the study is to determine if there is a causal relationship between video violence and aggressiveness or other harmful effects on kids, with a particular emphasis on whether video games have a "unique impact" due to their interactive, and "extraordinarily vivid" portrayals of violence.

It also asks for the answer to whether violence in video programming has harmful affects distinguishable from other types of media and whether it causes long-lasting cognitive harm.

Back in 2007, the FCC's own violence study -- at Congress' directive as well -- concluded self-regulation wasn't working, that there was strong evidence that violent media produce aggressive kids, and advised Congress to step in if it wanted to give the FCC the power to regulate it. One suggestion -- this was under then-Chairman Kevin Martin -- was to force cable to offer programming a la carte. Congress did not end up acting on the suggestions for legislation.

There was a similar push to crack down on media violence after Columbine, and the report came out after the Virginia Tech shootings, but no bill was passed.