Commentary

FCC Has The Easy Job -- Telling Congress To Define TV Violence

Now the Federal Communications Commission wants limits on violent TV programming, much in the same way it got restraints on "indecency."

It's expected that the FCC will recommend Congress limit "excessively violent" content much as it limits indecency, by curbing its airing between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

That's the easy part. Here comes the hard part: The FCC leaves it up to Congress to define "excessively violent" content.

Nice. So if in an episode of "Heroes" we were to see the results of some excessively violent acts, with after-the-fact images of heads being ripped off bodies or a cheerleader being eviscerated, does that count?

How about a procedural crime drama? A scene opens on "CSI" with a glimpse of half arm or half leg. Is that included? Maybe this shouldn't count since it's closer to reality than the more sci-fi graphic visions of "Heroes." Or, maybe "CSI" counts even more because it is closer to the real thing.

The FCC lamely takes the easy way out here -- letting Congress take the heat for defining these TV acts.

Some definitions may indeed be easy. Perhaps Congress should take its cues from Jerry Seinfeld's character on "Seinfeld" when asked to define when sex started. He said it was with "the appearance of the nipple."

That could gives us some clue in how to know indecency when we see it -- such as Janet Jackson's naked breast.

But violence is another matter. TV pressure groups and civil-rights organizations have already said defining "excessive violence" is difficult, if not impossible. When "Seinfeld"'s Newman gets torched in his mail truck and a fire breaks out, does that mean that episode (a sitcom, no less) is excessively violent?

What about shows of years past? "Gunsmoke," "Combat" and "The Rifleman" could be considered excessive to some.

I'd throw in "F Troop." The opening credit scene -- repeated for a full season -- where the troop's cannon accidentally shoots down the lookout tower, and a soldier tumbles to the ground, was always quite traumatic for me. I've never been to the Statue of Liberty.

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