The Renewal Negotiations Saga: Congress & The FCC Complicate Things A Bit For Dick Wolf

As if Dick Wolf and GE/NBC don’t have enough to worry about…apparently last week Congress and the FCC, having nothing better to do than make angry noises about violence on TV (as opposed to say the former dealing with their outrageous level of spending and the latter doing something to ensure that the Internet of the future is not owned and controlled by a lucky few corporations rather than the US citizenry and the world at large) have now decided that there is too much crime and violence on TV.

Whee! Can you say ‘election season’? At least TV Week is asking for the right solution…that the networks do something about the content and number of TV shows that deal with violence and crime themselves before our government decides to ignore real problems and acts as a federal V-chip for grownups and children alike. This will make the fate of any crime drama not yet renewed just that much more iffy.

Editorial: Violence Report an Industry Wake-Up Call

April 30, 2007
Violence Report an Industry Wake-Up Call

“Last week’s report by the Federal Communications Commission recommending Congress take action to regulate violent programming is a wake-up call programmers and network executives need to take seriously.

The issue is as old as TV-and radio-themselves.
“The volume of protests against the orgy of crime on the air has deluged many a desk in Washington, and Wayne Coy, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, months ago issued a warning.” That was from a July 16, 1950, New York Times piece by its legendary TV critic, Jack Gould, in an article titled, “Time for a halt: Radio and TV carnage defies all reason.” In his almost too clever first sentence he writes, “If radio and television aren’t careful, somebody’s going to call the cops. … [T]he two media have exceeded the bounds of reasonable interest in murder, mayhem and assorted felonies.”

Then, as now, the creative community decried the threat of what they saw as possible government censorship of content.

Indeed, in an article we published nearly 15 years ago on Dec. 21, 1992, when the then Big 3 TV networks-ABC, CBS and NBC-struck an agreement of joint standards limiting television violence, many in Hollywood took exception to the plan.

“`It’s absolutely draconian and stupid,’ said Dick Wolf, executive producer of `Law and Order.’ … ‘This is the first step toward legislative censorship. I’m never going to sign it.”‘

Today the issue is still with us.

Interestingly, the one major part of the equation that’s changed since Mr. Wolf made those comments is that the networks and the studios have merged. Universal, for example, which has produced all the “Law and Order” series, is now the same entity, NBC, that airs them. NBCU has already said it opposes any government regulation of violent content “without clear, objective and consistent standards.”

We have never been a fan of government regulation of content, and, in this case in particular, agree with those who wonder if there are any standards of violent content for broadcast or cable that would pass muster with the courts.

And we have also been strong advocates of parents taking control of what their children watch on TV.

That being said, there is no doubt the networks could be doing more to curb the criticism they get.

Our biggest complaint is the networks’ seemingly unending TV show promotions of violent material during such family fare as “American Idol” and “Survivor.” “CSI” follows “Survivor,” for example, and many times the promos that run for it are not suitable for kids. The same is true when “Idol” runs promos for the next week’s “24” or “Prison Break.”

The networks need to do some self-policing before the government tries to do it for them.”

Remember that if you don’t like it, you can always change the channel or turn off the TV folks.


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