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June 06, 2007

STOPPING VIOLENCE ON TV by governmental mandate?

That would be like trying to stop any widespread behavior, according to Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). "We tried it once," he said. "It was called prohibition."

Alcohol, like fictional violence, is tough to keep away from human beings. Regulating behavior never works, Lautenberg said, speaking at a Senate committee hearing on violence. But having parents monitor kids' entertainment habits isn't enough, many senators said. At the same time no one could come up with a reasonable way to curb or change the preponderance of violence in TV show -- especially with freedom of speech concerns.

But Lautenberg may have come the closest. He said there is a need to try and figure out how to curb the "appetite" for such programming.

Finally, real economics principles are being applied. And, no, this doesn't have to do with boycotting advertisers that sponsor shows. It comes from the supply and demand model for consumers, including kids.

Basically, if TV viewers aren't interested in overly violent TV shows, no one will watch -- and no advertisers will spend their money. Deal with that demand, not the supply.

The Senators didn't even get into the issue of whether some violent scenes, like ones in "Saving Private Ryan," are key to the dramatic storylines of TV or films.

Then there's the issue of real news events. "If you see anything more violent than the war in Iraq and try to understand why we can't see flag-draped coffins coming in because we don't want to see the violence brought onto our society, then there is something terribly hypocritical about the whole thing," Lautenberg said.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who chaired the hearing, called the industry cowardly for putting the burden on parents to control their kids' TV viewing. It's true that 6- to 15-year-olds can control their own TV and entertainment devices. Parents can't be everywhere.

But that doesn't mean someone else -- or a governmental agency -- should be taking charge of that responsibility, either. Trust lessons are to be taught and learned -- by everyone. More important, it's the demand that needs to be addressed.

by Wayne Friedman
Courtesy of http://www.mediapost.com

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