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Three-Year FCC Study Shows V-Chips A Dud With Consumers

Some federal initiatives never seem to go away, and one of the longest lasting, and apparently least supported by the American public, is what some feel is the need for the federal government to protect our children from the adverse effects of excessive violence on TV. I doubt any issue has been researched and studied more extensively or has ever been the subject of more highly-publicized reports, and yet nothing meaningful has ever come of them, including one just issued by of all people the Federal Communications Commission itself.

It took our FCC three full years to compile and release its Congressionally mandated report during which time, the report indicates, the average kid watched almost 4,400 hours of TV, averaging just under four hours a day. And its conclusion is just about as wishy-washy as every other study undertaken. In effect it says, “Yes, excessive violence probably isn’t good for kids and maybe someone should do something about it.”

Excuse me, but didn’t Congress do something about it eight years ago when it mandated the inclusion of the V-chip in all new family-sized TVs? Well yes, but, the study shows, putting the chip into some 140 million new sets over that time hasn’t worked too well.

The FCC study references earlier ones that show that the V-chip, despite a rather major ongoing educational campaign, hasn’t been a hit with consumers. One conducted just last year shows that 88 percent of respondents “did not use V-chip or cable box parental controls in the previous week,” causing the Parents TV Council (one of several self-designated protectors of all children) to call the TV industry’s V-chip education campaign “a failure.”

Other studies cited in the FCC report show the majority of parents still aren’t aware there’s a V-chip in their TV. Of those who do know, the vast majority either find it too complicated to use or can’t make it work, and most of the rest simply don’t bother.

So what can be done? The report effectively throws the ball into the air. It suggests program providers adopt a non-violence prime-time block during which only child-suitable shows are offered, or totally revamp their scheduling concept by grouping violent shows in program packages which consumers might be able to block. This, of course, assumes that our current crop of pre-teen computer experts would not be able to defeat any such system. Importantly, the report offers no incentive for unregulated cable and satellite program suppliers to go along.

Similarly not offered is any way to encourage parents to simply take control of their children and restrict what they are permitted to watch. But that type of solution is never seen as the way to go as it would put the small but oh-so-vocal members of the children’s anti-TV establishment out of the lobbying business.