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TV industry plans ad campaign on decency

Jack Valenti wants parents to know that they control choices their kids make
/ Source: Reuters

The U.S. television industry will launch in June an advertising blitz to help parents control the shows their children watch, the former head of the Motion Picture Association of America said Monday.

Television broadcasters, networks, cable operators, satellite television and the consumer electronics industry plan to spend about $300 million on the campaign to help ward off lawmakers from toughening rules on television content.

“We want to tell American parents that they and they alone have total power to control every hour of television programming that comes into their home,” Jack Valenti said at the National Association of Broadcasters annual convention.

During Valenti’s tenure heading the movie group, he helped develop a movie and television rating system.

Valenti now leads an effort to respond to demands that television give parents more choices to protect children.

“We hope in June we will launch all over this country thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of messages going into each parent’s home so in time they will know the power that they possess,” he said.

The campaign comes amid a crackdown by the Federal Communications Commission on what broadcast television stations show. Some U.S. lawmakers want to extend decency restrictions to subscription television services.

U.S. regulations bar radio and television broadcasters from airing indecent material, usually profanity or sexually explicit content, except late at night when children are less likely to be in the audience.

The FCC proposed $3.6 million in fines against television stations for decency violations, including about $3.3 million against CBS stations for airing an episode of “Without a Trace” that depicted teenagers engaged in group sex.

In a rare show of unity, CBS and other broadcast networks and their affiliates asked a U.S. appeals court to overturn FCC decisions that found broadcasters violated decency standards by airing profanity.

“No one today knows what is indecent,” Valenti said.

The television industry has pointed to the V-chip and other technology as a way for parents to block shows they do not want their children to watch. Regulating subscription services would violate the right to free speech, the industry contends.

David Rehr, NAB chief executive, said the FCC’s recent decisions did little to clarify what broadcasters can air.

“We need clearer guidance from the FCC and Congress on where the lines are drawn,” Rehr said, adding the advertising campaign was “to advance parental use of control mechanisms and the TV ratings systems.”

Some parents advocacy groups have said that is not enough and are demanding the option to pay for only the channels they want to watch on cable or satellite.

The Parents Television Council, Concerned Women for America, Focus on the Family, and the Family Research Council Tuesday plan to renew a call for Congress to boost the current maximum $32,500 fine for decency limit violations.