Exposure of children to violence on telev ision ca n increase aggressive
behavior, at least in the short term, according to a report by the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC).
And while there are constitutional barriers to directly limiting the
distribution of violent television programming or when it may be aired (known
as time channeling), there are legal precedents relating to restrictions on
the broadcast of indecent content that provide possible parallels for
regulating violent television content, the FCC stated.
Moreover, the agency concluded that while there are legal, evidentiary,
analytical, and social science obstacles that need to be overcome in defining
harmful violence, Congress likely has the ability and authority to craft a
The report is the result of information provided by APA, the American
Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), and the AMA, among many
others, in response to a request for public input on the question of whether
exposure to violence on television affects children. The FCC prepared the
report at the request of members of the House of Representatives who asked the
agency to solicit comment on three essential issues:
"Our analysis... indicates that the current technology 'fix,'
including but not limited to consumer understanding of the technology and
voluntary ratings system, is not effective in protecting children from violent
programming," the FCC report stated. "[W]e believe action should
be taken to address violent programming."
In its recommendations, the FCC listed the following alternatives:
Cable and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) operators could implement a la
carte in a variety of ways. For example, it could be limited to digital cable
customers who would be permitted to "opt out" of cable
programming, requesting not to receive certain cable channels and having their
package price reduced accordingly ("channel blocking and
"Alternatively, customers could be allowed to 'opt in' to particular
cable programs," the FCC stated. "This is how premium channels are
offered today. In Hong Kong, for example, consumers can select and pay for
only the channels they want. A family that wants to watch sports, movies,
news, and children's programming can receive 15 free channels plus a selection
of 11 additional digital channels including ESPN, HBO, CNN Headline News,
National Geographic, Animal Planet, and Discovery.
"Another option [is] to allow consumers to choose a specific number
of channels from a menu of available programming for a fixed price—for
instance, 10 channels for $20 or 20 channels for $30. Customers then would be
able to receive and pay for only that programming that they are comfortable
bringing into their homes."
APA Trustee and child psychiatrist David Fassler, M.D., called the FCC
report "interesting and helpful," incorporating information,
testimony, and statements from APA, AACAP, and the AMA, among others.
"It provides a good summary of the existing research on the effects
of media violence on young children," Fassler said. "Consistent
with previous reviews, the FCC concludes that watching TV or movies with
violent content can be harmful to children. In particular, the report reviews
the findings of studies demonstrating an increase in aggressive behavior
following exposure to programming that depicts violence.
"The FCC also acknowledges that existing efforts to reduce such
exposure, including the use of voluntary rating systems, have not been
effective," Fassler added. "And finally, the report recommends
specific legislative and regulatory strategies designed to address this issue
in a more meaningful and definitive manner.
"It will be very interesting to see how and if these recommendations
are actually implemented," he said.
Fassler also noted that AACAP has published "Facts for
Families" on children and television violence posted at<www.aacap.org/page.ww?name=Children+And+TV+Violence§ion=Facts+for+Families>.