[Congressional Record Volume 141, Number 146 (Tuesday, September 19, 1995)]
[Pages S13810-S13812]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  Mr. CONRAD. Mr. President, I would like to bring the attention of the 
Senate an article entitled ``Sex and Violence on TV'' from the most 
recent issue of U.S. News & World Report--September 11, 1995. The 
article reviews television network programming for the upcoming fall TV 
season. I am particularly troubled by the direction of the networks. 
The lead in the article describes the season as ``to hell with kids--
that must be the motto of the new fall TV season.'' The article 
suggests that the family viewing hour--the 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. period--is 
dead, and that sex, vulgarity and violence rules prime time.
  Tom Shales in his review this weekend of fall television network 
programming in the Washington Post makes similar observations. He 
remarked, ``vulgarity is on the rise. Sitcom writers make big bucks 
coming up with cheap laughs. Buried in the dust of competition is the 
old family viewing concept that made the 8 p.m. hour--7 p.m. on 
Sundays--a haven from adult themes and language.''
  As my colleagues are aware, earlier this summer, the Senate and House 
of Representatives debated at length the issue of television violence 
as part of the telecommunications bill, S. 652 and H.R. 1555. Both the 
House and Senate bills include provisions requiring that new television 
sets be equipped with technology to permit parents to block television 
programming with violent, sexual or other objectionable content. The 
measure also encourages the development of a voluntary rating system by 
the television industry, a system that would enable parents to make 
informed decisions about television viewing for their children.
  Mr. President, with all the attention focused on television violence 
over the past few months--including a recent pledge by my distinguished 
colleague senator Robert Dole to clean up television and movies--it is 
astonishing that television networks are promoting a fall TV season 
that demonstrates so much disregard for the wishes of American families 
and the clear majority of the House and Senate. American people want 
television networks to develop programming with considerably less 
violence, sexual and indecent content. The new fall television schedule 
is a tragedy.
  Time and time again, I, and members of the Citizens Task Force on 
Television Violence have been told by the media that Government 
intervention to reduce violent and objectionable television programming 
is not necessary. We were assured that the media will act responsibly. 
The networks argue that the technology for parents to block programming 
and a rating system for programming are not necessary.
  Mr. President, the U.S. News & World Report's review of fall TV 
programming suggests otherwise. It is regrettable that the networks are 
demonstrating such disregard for the wishes of American families. The 
UCLA Center for Communications Policy's Network Violence Study released 
earlier today confirms some of these continuing concerns regarding 
violent programming. The UCLA study points out that while some 
programming shows improvement in the overall reduction of violence, the 
study identified serious problems regarding the level of violence in 
theatrical films on television, on-air promotions, children's 
television and the lack of parental advisories. I urge the American 
public to let their Senators and Members of the House of 
Representatives know their views on programming for the upcoming fall 
TV season, and to express strong support for the v-chip legislation 
when it is considered by the House-Senate Conference on the 
telecommunications bill. I ask unanimous consent Mr. President, that 
the text of the article from the U.S. News & World Report be printed in 
the Congressional Record at the conclusion of my remarks.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  (See exhibit 1.)
  Mr. CONRAD. Mr. President, I just want to conclude by saying the 
evidence is, really, overwhelming. I have been working on this issue 
for 5 years. I have put together a national coalition that involves 
church groups, law enforcement, all of the children's advocacy groups, 
the principals of America, the teachers, the National Education 
Association, group after group after group who have said, ``Enough is 
enough. Let us reduce the mindless, repetitive violence that is on 
television. Let us reduce that objectionable sexual content. Let us 
have television realize the promise that it offers the American people, 
to uplift, to educate, to inform.'' That is what our society 
desperately needs.
  And over and over the networks have told us, ``Be patient, just wait. 
We are going to act.''
  Now, we have the fall schedule and we can see how hollow those 
promises are. Over and over we have been told, ``We are going to do 
better. We are going to reduce the level of violence. We are going to 
reduce other objectionable content.''
  Mr. President, they have not kept the promise. I call on my 
colleagues to stand fast. We passed here, by 73 to 26, the ``choice 
chips'' that will permit parents to decide what their children are 
exposed to. That is the appropriate response.
  I, once again, call on the networks to take action to keep their 
promises and, hopefully, to support this legislation that will provide 
``choice chips'' in new television sets so parents can choose; 

[[Page S13811]]
so parents can decide what their children are exposed to.

                               Exhibit 1

          [From U.S. News & World Report, September 11, 1995]

                         Sex and Violence on TV

                            (By Marc Silver)

       The family hour is gone. There's still a splattering of 
     guts in prime time, but the story of the fall lineup is the 
     rise of sex. Will the networks ever wise up?
       To hell with kids--that must be the motto of the new fall 
     TV season. You want proof? Look at the network lineups. Many 
     of the wholesome sitcoms that once ruled the 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. 
     hour have gone to the TV graveyard, replaced by racier fare 
     like ``Cybill'' and ``Roseanne.'' As a Wall Street Journal 
     news story put it in a recent headline, ``It's 8 p.m. Your 
     Kids Are Watching Sex on TV.''
       Vulgarity also rules in the first hour of prime time. In 
     ``Bless This House,'' an 8 p.m. CBS show starring shock comic 
     Andrew Clay as a blue-collar dad, the mom accuses her 12-
     year-old daughter of ``spend[ing] all morning staring at your 
     little hooters.'' Chatting with a promiscuous chum who's said 
     to be so eager for sex that she'd ``do it on the coffee 
     table,'' the mother wonders, ``My God, don't you ever get 
     your period?''
       Say goodbye to the ``family hour,'' the 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. 
     period ABC, CBS and NBC once reserved for you and the kids, 
     and say hello to the Fox in the henhouse. The success of 
     sexually frank programs like the Fox network's ``Beverly 
     Hills 90210'' at 8 p.m. has uncorked a wave of me-tooism in 
     the quest for a young (but not too young), hip and urban 
     audience. As Alan Sternfeld, an ABC senior vice president, 
     says of shifting ``Roseanne'' and ``Ellen'' to 8 p.m.: ``We 
     get reimbursed by advertisers when we deliver adults 18 to 
       Despite the outcry over TV violence this year, it is the 
     rise of sex on TV that is the real story of the fall lineup. 
     Some media critics are pointing to moralistic plots on shows 
     like ``ER,'' ``Roseanne'' and ``Seinfeld'' as evidence that 
     network TV is becoming as wholesome and earnest as The Little 
     Engine That Could. But that's just a small part of what's 
     happening in prime time.
       ``A lot of Hollywood says, `If you criticize us about 
     violence, then let's have some good, wholesome sex at 8 
     p.m.,''' says Lionel Chetwynd, a prominent writer, director 
     and producer who has worked in TV for 20 years. ``The idea 
     that family viewing includes some sense of sexual propriety 
     doesn't seem to have sunk into the Hollywood community.''
       Chetwynd sees a defensive reaction from his colleagues. 
     They complain that they're an easy target, and also believe 
     that only someone on the far right could possibly be upset by 
     sex on TV. But that's not so. Plenty of ``lifestyle 
     conservatives''--a term coined by film critic Michael 
     Medved--are fed-up viewers despite their moderate or liberal 
     political views.
       Those lifestyle conservatives have plenty to grouse about. 
     A groundbreaking study by Monique Ward, a postdoctoral fellow 
     in education at the University of California at Los Angeles, 
     tracks and analyzes sexual content in the 1992-93 prime-time 
     shows most popular among youngsters 2 to 12 and 12 to 17. On 
     average, 29 percent of all interactions involved sex talk of 
     some kind. ``Blossom'' at 58 percent and ``Martin'' at 49 
     percent led the pack. Sex is most often depicted as a 
     competition, a way to define masculinity and an ``exciting 
     amusement for people of all ages,'' Ward found. Looks are 
     everything. In an episode of ``Blossom,'' a teenager's 
     grandfather says of a blind date: ``In case she's a dog, I 
     can fake a heart attack.'' Ward's study will appear in the 
     October Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
       Then there's soap-opera sex, talk-show sex chatter, sex 
     crimes on the news--how do kids process all that? Little 
     academic work has been done in this area. Yet, researchers 
     are moving ahead gingerly, and certain conclusions are 
     emerging. In a study of how middleclass teenage girls react 
     to sex in the media, Jane Brown, a professor in the school of 
     journalism and mass communications at the University of North 
     Carolina at Chapel Hill, identified three types of viewers: 
     sexually inexperienced teens who find the whole thing 
     ``disgusting'': ``intrigued'' girls who ``suck it up,'' 
     buying into the TV sex fantasy, and ``critics,'' who tear 
     irresponsible sexual messages to shreds. ``but the media are 
     so compelling and so filled with sex, it's hard for any kid, 
     even a critic, to resist,'' says Brown. ``I think of the 
     media as our true sex educators.''
       Kids agree. This year, Children Now, an Oakland, Calif., 
     advocacy group, polled 750 children ages 10 to 16. Six out of 
     10 said sex on TV sways kids to have sex at too young an age. 
     Some shows to promote teenage abstinence or conversations 
     about the consequences of sex, but that's the exception. One 
     suggestion endorsed by Douglas Besharov, a scholar at the 
     conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute: Force TV 
     honchos to show their products to their spouses, kids and 
       Murder at 8 p.m.--Violence also is barging into the early 
     evening this fall. Fox's ``Space: Above and Beyond,'' a 7 
     p.m. sci-fi spatterthon, features flamethrowers, stun guns 
     and, for nostalgia buffs, a crowbar and a noose of chains. 
     ``John Grisham's The Client,'' an 8 p.m. CBS drama, serves up 
     two corpses and two bloody, on-screen murders in the first 15 
     minutes. That's more grist for politicians on the warpath 
     about TV violence.
       The ``V-chip'' is currently a favorite solution. Both 
     houses of Congress have supported legislation requiring that 
     new TV sets come with a chip enabling parents to block 
     violent programs. The technology is a snap. Deciding which 
     shows deserve a ``V'' for violence is the problem. The 
     networks aren't eager to cooperate. A government committee 
     raises the specter of censorship, along with thorny 
     questions--for example, would violence in ``M*A*S*H'' be in 
     the same category as shootings in ``The Untouchables''?
       In any event, the V-chip is a few years away. In the 
     interim, children will see thousands of violent acts on TV. A 
     study by the American Psychological Association figures that 
     the typical child, watching 27 hours of TV a week, will view 
     8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence from age 3 to age 
     12. (Of course, that wouldn't apply to fans of ``Mister 
     Rogers' Neighborhood'' or sitcom viewers.)
       An upcoming report by the UCLA Center for Communication 
     Policy sees some improvements on the TV-violence front. ``The 
     networks know what the public is looking for,'' says Jeffrey 
     Cole, director of the center, which was hired by the networks 
     to conduct what is arguably the most thorough review ever of 
     violence in prime-time media. Looking at nearly 3,000 hours 
     of television, the report concludes the overall level of 
     violence is dropping.
       Bloody promos.--But gratuitous violence is on the rise. 
     ``All violence is not equal,'' says Cole. ``Context is 
     everything, and in some instances, violence is unwarranted 
     and not helpful to the plot. Some movies and made-for-TV 
     movies about crime are just vehicles for violence.'' Promos 
     for violent shows are especially prone to ``condensed 
     violence'' with no context.
       Hollywood isn't convinced that media mayhem inspires the 
     real thing. ``When I was little, I went to the movies every 
     week and saw violent cartoons and two or three Westerns in 
     which the entire Sioux nation was massacred by the cavalry,'' 
     recalls Steven Bochco, creator of ``NYPD Blue.'' ``I never 
     had a question that what I was watching was make-believe, 
     because I was raised by a family that gave me a moral 
       On the other side of the debate stand 1,000-plus studies 
     establishing links between TV violence and the way people 
     behave in real life. In a 1970 study at Pennsylvania State 
     University, psychologist Aletha Huston and a colleague 
     regularly showed cartoons of fist-flying superheroes to one 
     group of 4-year-olds and bland fare to another. Among kids in 
     both groups known to be above average in aggressive behavior, 
     those who saw the action heroes were more likely to hit and 
     throw things after watching. Nor do the effects of TV 
     violence fade after childhood. Psychologist Leonard Eron of 
     the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research 
     has tracked 650 New York children from 1960 to the present, 
     looking at viewing habits and behavior. Those who watched the 
     most violent television as youngsters grew up to engage in 
     the most aggressive behavior as adults, from spouse abuse to 
     drunk driving.
       The flaw in Bochco's argument, Eron says, is that not all 
     homes have a moral compass. Besides, no one's saying that all 
     violence is inspired by television. One estimate, based on an 
     analysis of 275 studies by George Comstock, S. I. Newshouse 
     professor of public communication at Syracuse University, is 
     that perhaps 10 percent of antisocial and illegal acts can be 
     linked to TV. ``But wouldn't it be great if we could reduce 
     the occurrence of violence in this nation by 10 percent?'' 
     asks Eron.
       Family fare?--Fans of family TV won't find much to cheer 
     about in the fall 1995 season. ``More channels doesn't mean 
     more choices,'' says Kathryn Montgomery of the Center for 
     Media Education, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C. In 
     fact, one of the best family dramas on television, CBS's 
     ``Christy'' was canceled this spring despite a slew of 
     awards. ``Christy,'' the story of a young teacher in 
     backwoods Tennessee in 1912, had superb writing and acting--
     and lovely lessons about life with nary an ounce of schmaltz 
     or sex, violence or swearing. The audience of about 10 
     million weekly viewers was ``fairly substantial and intensely 
     loyal,'' says David Poltrack, executive vice president of 
     research and planning for CBS. But the young adults whom 
     advertisers crave weren't watching in force, so ``Christy'' 
     got the ax. Reruns will air on the Family Channel on 
     Saturdays at 7 p.m. starting in October.
       Since most new network shows weren't designed with a family 
     audience in mind, Warner Bros. new WB network is trying to 
     fill the 8 to 9 p.m. void with ``family friendly'' fare. On 
     the menu this fall: a fairly clever carton called ``Steven 
     Speilberg Presents Pinky & the Brain'' on Sundays at 7 p.m., 
     about a smart lab rat trying to take over the world, and 
     supposedly wholesome sitcoms that are, in fact, generally 
     mediocre and occasionally offensive. In ``Kirk,'' the lame 
     tale of an older brother who assumes custody of three 
     siblings, the younger brother brags of peeping into a nearby 
     apartment and seeing a beautiful woman in a ``Wonderbra and 
     nothing else.'' Turns out the gal is a guy, even though he 
     has ``girl things.''
       Raunchy family fare is nothing new. In an episode of CBS's 
     ``The Nanny,'' a returning show that pitches itself to kids 
     with promos during cartoons, the nanny comes home 

[[Page S13812]]
     drunk and mistakenly stumbles into bed with her cold-ridden boss. The 
     next day, neither can recall if they had sex. ``We try to do 
     a sophisticated 8 p.m. show,'' says ``Nanny'' Co-executive 
     Producer Diane Wilk. ``We wouldn't want to put anything on 
     the air we wouldn't want our children to see.'' Counters 
     Debra Haffner, president of the Sexuality Information and 
     Education Council of the United States: ``I wouldn't let my 
     10-year-old daughter watch. `The Nanny'--or practically any 
     other prime-time show--without me, so I can discuss the 
     sexual messages with her.''
       Smart TV.--On Saturday mornings, network cynicism is 
     symbolized by ABC's canning of ``Cro,'' one of the few 
     genuinely educational cartoons around. ``Cro'' wasn't the 
     greatest show ever produced by the Children's Television 
     Workshop, creators of ``Sesame Street.'' But it managed to 
     tuck science lessons into the adventures of a prehistoric 
     tribe and did win its time slot last season. ABC says the 
     show ``underperformed.'' As ``Cro'' bowed out, an animated 
     version of the movie Dumb and Dumber joined ABC's Saturday 
     lineup. ``This is beyond irony,'' says Reed Hundt, chairman 
     of the Federal Communications Commission. ```Dumb and Dumber' 
     is a description of this decision, not just a title.''
       PBS still has a fine roster of educational fare. But 
     ``Ghostwriter,'' a popular show for ages 6 to 11 that 
     stresses reading skills in the mysteries it weaves, will have 
     no new episodes, just reruns. Corporate money dried up for 
     the series, and two commercial networks weren't interested in 
     new episodes for Saturday mornings. ``Wishbone,'' a new PBS 
     daily series, debuting October 9 and aimed at the same age 
     group, is a strong breed. The eponymous star is a terrier who 
     imagines himself in literary works like Romeo and Juliet. The 
     dog is appealing, yet a purist might wonder if this is the 
     best way to introduce kids to great literature.
       But ``Wishbone'' is a gem compared with Disney's new, 
     allegedly educational syndicated series ``Sing Me a Story: 
     With Belle.'' To keep costs down, Disney is recycling old 
     cartoons with new didactic voice-overs. In one episode, the 
     lesson is: Friends are good, friends are good, friends are 
     good. The live-action host is Belle, star of Beauty and the 
       Nonetheless, Disney could be the salvation of family-
     friendly television when it takes over ABC. Dean Valentine, 
     president of Walt Disney Television and Television Animation, 
     predicts the glut of adult-oriented 8 p.m. shows will provide 
     an opening for something different. ``In the next year or 
     two, the hit shows will be family programs from Disney at 8 
     p.m.,'' he says.
       Parents don't have to just sit and wait for better TV. 
     Public outrage can play a role in reforming the media--that's 
     why Calvin Klein decided last week to pull controversial ads 
     for jeans depicting young people in various stages of 
     undress. Then again, few have lost money being crass in the 
     vast wasteland.

 a guide to media literacy--what tv-savvy parents can do to help their 

       As TV gets wilder and wilder, more parents are opting to 
     junk television altogether. Those not ready for this drastic 
     step can find solace in media literacy--the art of 
     deconstructing television. Schools in Canada have taught 
     media literacy for years, explaining to students that 
     programs exist to deliver an audience to advertisers, that 
     sex and violence sell and that TV news isn't all the news 
     that's fit to air--it's more likely the news that gets the 
     best ratings. American schools are just beginning to catch 
     up. Here are six key precepts for a crash course at home.
       1. Rethink your image of TV.--Newton Minow, former chairman 
     of the Federal Communications Commission, suggests imagining 
     a stranger in your house blathering on to you and your 
     children about sex and violence all day long. No one dares 
     interrupt or tell the stranger to shut up or get out. That 
     stranger is your TV set.
       2. Keep a diary.--Ask your kids how much TV they think they 
     watch. Then have them write down everything they watch for a 
     week. Parents might do the same. Both generations may be 
     shocked by the results. A reasonable goal for kids: two hours 
     a day. Several primers help with this and other steps: The 
     Smart Parent's Guide to Kids' TV by Milton Chen (KQED Books, 
     1994, $8.95); ``Taking Charge of Your TV,'' from the National 
     PTA and the cable-television industry (free copies from 800-
     743-5355 or http://www.widmeyer.com/ncta/home.htm on the 
     Internet); and guides from the Center for Media Literacy 
     (call 800-226-9494 for a free catalog).
       3. Be choosy.--You wouldn't stroll into a library and pick 
     up the first book, and you shouldn't just turn on the TV and 
     watch whatever's on. Media literacy mavens suggest choosing a 
     week's worth of programs in advance. Sorry, no channel 
       4. Watch with them.--Unless parents are confident that a 
     show is safe for youngsters (rarely the case these days), 
     they should watch with their kids, then talk about 
     controversial content. Sample queries: ``Why was that the 
     lead story on the news?'' ``Could a cop really be back at 
     work a week after being shot in the chest?'' ``When the star 
     of the sitcom decided to have sex with a woman he just met, 
     should she have suggested that he use a condom?''
       5. Just say no.--And also why--which means you first need 
     to watch the series in question. ``My daughter, who's 11, 
     wanted to see `Married . . . With Children,''' says Karen 
     Jaffe of Kidsnet, a children's media resource center in 
     Washington, D.C. ``I said no. I don't like the way the 
     parents talk to the kids or the kids talk to the parents.''
       6. Media literacy isn't a cure-all.--No child can be 
     immunized against all the bad stuff on TV. So parents (and 
     children) need to make their objections known. Letters to the 
     local station, with a copy to the local newspapers and the 
     FCC, can carry weight, especially if you use the words feared 
     by TV executives: ``failing to serve the public interest'' 
     and ``doesn't deserve to have its license renewed.''

                       does kids' tv need fixing?

       Officials are debating whether to toughen the Children's 
     Television Act: Should they require stations to air more 
     quality kids' programming?
       The Children's Television Act is either the last best hope 
     for children's programs or an irksome symbol of how 
     government meddles where it shouldn't. Enacted in October 
     1990, the act requires local stations to meet the 
     ``educational and informational needs of children'' to renew 
     their licenses. The act's supporters want to strengthen its 
     terms by requiring, among other things, that a specific 
     number of hours be devoted to children's programming; its 
     critics say Uncle Sam has no business regulating a local 
     station's schedule.
       Without government intervention, the television industry 
     will not produce enough quality children's programming.
       Broadcasters must serve the public.--They use spectra owned 
     by the public and it's only right that their work benefit the 
     public interest. ``The law requires that broadcasters uphold 
     public-interest standards regardless of the share of 18-to-
     49-year-olds that they capture for advertisers,'' said 
     Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt in a 
     recent speech.
       Children need an advocate.--Federal courts have already 
     recognized that government has a role in protecting kids' 
     interests that extends beyond the constitutional protections 
     of free speech. One recent decision affirmed that role when 
     it upheld the FCC's regulations restricting ``indecent'' 
     programming to certain hours.
       Broadcasters cut corners.--The children's Television Act 
     vaguely defines educational as furthering ``the positive 
     development of the child in any respect.'' Broadcasters love 
     that loophole. The Center for Media Education says some 
     station license renewal applications have listed cartoons 
     like ``Casper'' and ``GI Joe'' as educational. The definition 
     of the word educational must be firmed up so that shows 
     airing prior to 7 a.m. should not qualify and local stations 
     are required to air a certain number of hours per week.
       Threats of regulation bring results.--When presidents 
     threaten to regulate the television industry, more 
     educational shows are produced for children. Former ABC 
     children's television chief Squire Rushnell has charted the 
     relationship: Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford both advocated 
     that there should be more educational children's programming 
     or else the government would insist on it. As a result, the 
     networks averaged almost 10 hours of such programming per 
     week by 1975. By the end of Jimmy Carter's term, in 1980, the 
     total was up to 11\1/4\ hours. By 1990, after Ronald Reagan's 
     tenure, it dropped to 1\3/4\ hours. (Broadcasters dispute 
     Rushnell's counting methods.)
       While there is industry support for the Children's 
     Television Act, the free market does a good job of creating 
     quality shows without government edicts.
       Strict regulations violate free speech.--When government 
     tells broadcasters how much children's educational television 
     they should produce and what time slots they should use for 
     such programs, the First Amendment rights of those 
     broadcasters are violated. ``It takes away the discretion of 
     the broadcasters,'' says Jeff Baumann, general counsel for 
     the National Association of Broadcasters.
       Government cannot make children watch ``educational 
     programming.''--If TV producers have to scramble to produce 
     educational shows to fulfill a requirement, the result will 
     be a spate of mediocre programs that won't capture the 
     imagination of children.
       Broadcasters have responded to the act.--FCC Commissioner 
     Rachelle Chong points out that since the act took effect, 
     children's educational fare has increased from about one hour 
     per week to three hours on average. She believes that 
     broadcasters are getting the message about educational fare 
     and plans to follow up with broadcasters who promise her that 
     the trend will improve. Quantitative guidelines should be 
     ``our last resort.''
       The free market works.--Cable stations like the Disney 
     Channel, the Learning Channel and Nickelodeon and several 
     satellite and online services have all come into being to 
     serve children (though 36 percent of American homes do not 
     have cable). With new players entering the entertainment 
     business, the choices for children will only increase. ``If 
     there's a program niche there, the marketplace will find 
     it,'' says Ben Tucker, president of Retlaw Broadcasting and 
     chairman of government relations for the CBS affiliate's 
     advisory board.

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut.