The Senate approved legislation Wednesday that would grant an antitrust exemption to the television networks so they could develop industry-wide guidelines for violence, sex and drugs on TV.
The bill, approved by voice vote and sent to the House, was proposed by Sen. Paul Simon., D-Ill., after he was told by network officials that antitrust laws prevented them from cooperating on such guidelines.Simon said he became concerned about the extent of violence on TV after he checked into a motel one evening, turned on the television set and saw a man being cut in half with a chain saw.
Since then, Simon said he has learned that the American Medical Association, the surgeon general and many mental health experts have concluded the repeated depictions of violence on TV are hurting American children.
"We are really doing harm to our society," Simon said. "I don't want censorship, but I think we do have to recognize we have a problem."
Also attached to the bill was legislation by Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., that would allow the networks to draw up similar guidelines for sexual material on television.
Helms noted a recent television movie, "Favorite Son," featured a scene in which a scantily clad woman asked a man to tie her to a bed.
"Oh, that's great family entertainment - bondage on prime-time TV!" Helms exclaimed.
Helms said Planned Parenthood had found 65,000 references to sex over the course of the last prime-time television season - roughly 27 references per hour.
"Prime-time has degenerated into sleaze-time and the American public is fed up," he said.
Helms and Simon said the legislation did not require the industry to develop guidelines, but Helms said, "I would advise our friends in the television industry to take this seriously because if they don't, we will be back."
Simon said similar legislation was approved by the Senate last year, but it bogged down in the House due to opposition from the television industry.