April 28, 2005

Wyden Seeks to Clean Up Television Programming for Kids

Senator introduces legislation to require cable and satellite operators to offer child-friendly tier of programming; studies show widespread public concern over exposure to sex, violencein youth TV programming

Washington, DC - In an effort to finally make American television programming sensitive to children, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today is introducing legislation that would for the first time require cable and satellite operators to offer a child-friendly tier of programming similar to those offered for sports and entertainment shows. Wyden's Kid-Friendly TV Programming Act of 2005 strikes a balance between requiring providers to offer child-friendly television and limiting government regulation of television content across-the-board by giving parents the chance to subscribe to the youth programming tier. According to A.C. Nielsen, on average American children spend four hours each day watching television - more time than on any other activity other than sleeping. Cable and satellite television is the source of about 85 percent of television programming for American households. "Parents who do not want their children to watch violent, obscene or sexually explicit programming should be able to choose a tier of programming appropriate for them," said Wyden. "The key here is to guarantee that parents will have adequate viewing options for their kids without imposing Federal regulation on all paid content provided on satellite and cable." Within one year of enactment, Wyden's legislation would: *Require all cable and satellite operators to offer a kid-friendly tier of programming; *Require monthly billing statements to include information about how customers can use blocking technology to stop offensive programming; and *Impose fines of $500,000 per day on any cable or satellite operator who does not comply with the kids tier mandate. The legislation defines a child-friendly tier as "a group of channels that does not carry programming, advertisements or public service announcements that would be considered inappropriate for children due to obscene, indecent, profane, sexual, or gratuitous and excessively violent content." Parents and adults who are not concerned about the current level of violence and sex on television would continue to have access to those options without Federal regulation of that content. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study found that 63 percent of parents say they favor new regulations to limit the amount of sex and violence in television shows during the early evening hours, when children are most likely to be watching. According to a Pew Research Center study, 60 percent of parents say they are "very" concerned about the amount of sex and 53 percent are "very" concerned about the violence their children are exposed to on television. However, the same study also found that about half were more worried about the government imposing undue restrictions and thought sex and violence in entertainment generally were more the responsibility of the audience. In order to strike an appropriate balance between providing responsible program choices and limiting government regulation, the legislation does not dictate how the programming must be offered, other than requiring that each kid-friendly tier carry at least 15 channels. Further, the bill leaves it up to the operator whether to offer the kids tier as part of a basic or expanded basic package or as a completely separate package. The legislation is expected to be referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.