Washington -- Over the strong objections of the cable industry, the Senate unanimously adopted Tuesday a bill that could prevent cable operators from airing violent programming at times when children are expected be in the audience.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Fritz Hollings (S.C.), who has been pushing for a TV violence ban for years without success. But this year could be different because Hollings is retiring and looking for a last hurrah in a negative political climate toward TV that hit Capitol Hill after Janet Jackson’s breast exposure during the Super Bowl halftime show.
Hollings’s bill was attached as an amendment to the Defense Department’s spending bill, which President Bush is unlikely to veto. However, the TV violence provisions could be stripped when House and Senate appropriators meet to craft a final bill for Bush’s signature.
Under the Hollings bill, the FCC could ban violent cable programming during certain dayparts if the agency determines that video programming blocking technology is failing to shield children from excessive and gratuitous TV violence.
Cable companies could face up to $3 million in fines for airing violent programming outside the safe harbor period, which is 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. under current FCC rules.
“We believe the “safe harbor” amendment as approved today by the Senate raises serious constitutional questions, and we oppose this amendment,” said Brian Dietz, a spokesman of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.
The FCC would be required to exempt premium and pay-per-view cable programming. But the agency would have the option to exempt news programs and sporting events.
“The Congress has made it clear we want to address violence on TV,” Hollings said. “For years, we’ve accumulated studies showing the link between violent TV programming and violent, anti-social behavior in children. Now we have a chance to do something about it.”