April 26, 2007

FCC to be commended for its report on TV violence, but a constitutional amendment may be needed to protect children from violent entertainment


NEW YORK (April 26, 2007) Robert Peters, President of Morality in Media, had the following comments on yesterday’s release of an FCC Report recommending that “action should be taken” to protect children from excessively violent television programming:

“Over the years Morality in Media has often been criticized for not doing more to curb children’s exposure to violent entertainment. My answer was and is two-fold. First, we do often speak out against gratuitous depictions of imitable violence that can cause death or serious harm, especially where children are likely to view such ‘entertainment.’

“Second, as far back as 1946, when the Supreme Court invalidated a New York law (and by implication similar laws in 19 other states) that prohibited distribution of publications containing certain types of violence, the courts have been invalidating every law intended to protect children from violent entertainment.

“Admittedly, drafting a law that isn’t vague poses a challenge, but once upon a time the courts understood that ‘the inability to define regulated materials with ultimate, god-like precision’ was not a fatal flaw.

“Admittedly, drafting a law that will distinguish between materials that pose a serious risk of harm from those that don’t also poses a challenge, but when it comes to protecting children from exposure to entertainment that can harm them, government must have leeway.

“These days the Supreme Court also applies ‘strict scrutiny’ to laws that restrict speech based on content, and as the Court has said, ‘it is rare’ that any such law ‘will ever be permissible.’

“One way to overcome this Supreme Court-imposed roadblock is to add a Justice or two who still have some common sense. Failing that, the Constitution will have to be amended to clarify that the First Amendment does not prevent government from enacting reasonable legislation to protect children from entertainment that is harmful to them.

“The FCC Report states that Congress could mandate some form of consumer choice, which would certainly help. But violent programming isn’t limited to cable and satellite TV, and wise consumer choice depends on wise parents, which not every child is fortunate to have.”

MORALITY IN MEDIA works through constitutional means to curb traffic in obscenity.

Author: Robert Peters  04/26/2007

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