The leadership of the House Energy & Commerce Committee is giving the Federal Communications Commission until the end of the year to answer a host of questions on the viability of putting excessive violence in the same category as indecency, which can be regulated by the commission.
According to a draft of a letter to FCC chairman Michael Powell, chairman Joe Barton, Telecommunications Subcommittee chairman Fred Upton, and ranking Democrats John Dingell and Ed Markey are giving the FCC 60 days to begin the inquiry into "the issue of excessively violent broadcast programming and its impact on children." They must submit a report to the committee by Jan. 1, 2005.
The committee wants the FCC to report on the harm that excessively violent programming does to children. It also wants to know whether it is in the public interest to define such programming, whether it is Constitutional to come up with that definition and to prohibit such programming at times when children are likely to be viewing, and whether the FCC already has the authority or needs Congress to legislate it for them.
In January, Powell suggested that the indecency fines were too low and that he, too, was concerned about sex and violence on TV.
The committee points out in the letter that it has been concerned about violent TV since at least 1952. It has decided, for now, not to expand the definition of indecency to include violence primarily because it would have been a dealbreaker in an indecency enforcement bill that otherwise got voted up 49-to-1 yesterday.