Lieberman: Media Promotes Carnage

Wednesday, September 13th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Joe Lieberman decried a ``culture of carnage'' surrounding America's young people and told a Senate committee Wednesday that the government should stop the marketing of violent movies, music and video games to children if the industry fails to police itself.

Parents feel ``locked in a losing competition with the culture to raise our children,'' said Lieberman, a longtime opponent of violence and sex in the media who helped bring the issue into the presidential campaign as Democratic nominee Al Gore's running mate.

The hearing followed a scathing Federal Trade Commission report this week that asserted the entertainment industry was peddling adult material to underage audiences. Federal media regulators have announced they'll take a closer look at the amount of sex and violence on the major TV networks.

Senators used the hearing to accuse entertainment executives and to criticize them for failing to show up to defend themselves.

``Their hubris is stunning,'' said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., head of the Commerce Committee, who convened the hearing. ``I have never seen such a thing before.''

He called another hearing in two weeks specifically to hear from the heads of Time Warner, Walt Disney Co., Newscorp, Viacom, Miramax and others.

Both presidential campaigns were represented at the hearing, seizing on an issue that resonates strongly with Americans concerned about the exposure of young adults to sex and violence.

``This practice is outrageous, it is deceptive and it has got to stop,'' said Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential nominee. He reiterated a pledge by Gore campaign to crack down on the industry if it doesn't shape up in six months.

The Connecticut senator said the Columbine school shooting last year served as a warning that ``the romanticized and sanitized visions of violence our children are being bombarded with by the media has become part of a toxic mix that has actually now turned some of them into killers.''

Parents feel ``locked in a losing competition with the culture to raise our children,'' said Lieberman.

His Republican opponent, George W. Bush, questioned Gore's credibility on the issue and said the solution should rest with parents and political persuasion, not new federal regulation.

Republicans had their own representative at the hearing — Lynne Cheney, wife of the Republican vice presidential nominee and former head of the National Endowment for the Humanities, who said entertainment violence ``debases and degrades the culture our children are growing up in.''

The FTC report decried the entertainment industry's ``pervasive and aggressive marketing'' of adult material — such as R-rated movies or video games intended for mature audiences — to children.

The fallout from the study was felt Tuesday in Hollywood, as the Walt Disney Co. announced changes in its marketing practices, including a prohibition against theater owners showing trailers for R-rated films before movies released under the Walt Disney label. The Disney-owned ABC network also will not accept advertisements for R-rated films during prime time before 9 p.m.

Disney said it would not show R-rated films — released under its Touchstone, Hollywood Pictures and Miramax Films labels — to focus groups under age 17 and would urge theater owners to more strictly enforce the age restriction. The company does not release R-rated films under the Walt Disney label.

Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, acknowledged it was not suitable to target R-rated films to very young children, but asserted that the FTC's report was based on subjective judgments.

For example, the commission determined that R-rated movies were advertised on TV programs most popular with the under-17 group. But, Valenti said, for many of these shows, the majority of the audience is 18 and over.

``We are not dealing with Euclid's geometry where the equations are pristine and explicit,'' he said in remarks prepared for delivery at Wednesday's hearing. Still, he promised that the industry would examine how it advertises and conducts research so that it does not deliberately target underage viewers.

That didn't stop calls by South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon for state prosecutors to band together in a lawsuit against Hollywood, akin to the action states took against the tobacco industry.

The Federal Communications Commission extended the sphere of scrutiny to the airwaves by announcing Tuesday it would examine whether broadcasters were promoting inappropriate programming when children were likely to be watching.


On the Net: Senate Commerce Committee site:

Federal Communications Commission site:

Motion Picture Association of America site: