The advertising community is concerned about what it considers the "sweeping new censorship powers" a Senate indecency bill would give the Federal Communications Commission.
Executives at the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies have sent a letter to the Senate expressing their "strong opposition" to attempts to regulate video violence.
The indecency regulation bill passed by the Senate Commerce Committee last week includes an amendment from Senator Fritz Hollings that would require the FCC to define and regulate video violence if it determines that the V-chip/ratings system did not sufficiently protect children from such shows.
"The amendment would empower government to broadly restrict programming that contains violent content," they wrote. "Such a scheme could wipe out a wide range of programming, from cartoons to dramas to police shows, based on the subjective definitions of the FCC."
While saying better education about the V-chip and ratings may be necessary, the groups said flatly that: "We cannot allow the government to decide what Americans can see in their homes and when they can see it. A government stamp of approval must not be a prerequisite for programming to be seen on the broadcast and cable media."
Although the bill talks about commercial speech, "it creates a cloud over both the programming and advertising," the ANA's Dan Jaffe, one of the letter's co-signers, told B&C (AAAA's Richard O'Brien was the other). Jaffe added that the amendment was simply one of a "growing number of efforts to use children as a means to circumnavigate the protections of the First Amendment."
In the face of a growing childhood obesity problem, the ad industry has been under heavy fire from Washington over the way food ads are marketed to kids.