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Senator: Media sex, violence is 'a national security issue'

February 03, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Stacey Chaney couldn't prevent her son from being shown the hanging of deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein at his Berkeley County school's computer lab.

At home, she's found herself with the difficult task of explaining erectile dysfunction after a commercial aired during a TV show.

Mooch Mutchler said he couldn't get to the remote fast enough to change the channel when a particularly disturbing advertisement aired while he and his child were watching an NFL game recently.

"I'm furious with the commercials," Mutchler told U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who met Friday with parents at Eagle School Intermediate School in Berkeley County to discuss the increasing amount of graphic and violent programming on television and the Internet.

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"I consider it a national security issue, I really do," Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said of the programming's exposure to children, a topic he broached Thursday with members of the Federal Communications Commission in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing.

Rockefeller said he never watched the video of Saddam's hanging, which wasn't broadcast on television, but is viewable on the Internet.

"I read about it. That was enough," Rockefeller said. "I think what young people see on television fundamentally affects what they do."

According to statistics released Friday by Rockefeller, violence increased in every time slot on television in prime time since 1998. And during the 8 p.m. family hour, it increased by 45 percent. In the 9 p.m. hour, violence increased by 92 percent.

Larry Dunn told Rockefeller his children sometimes get upset when they are restricted from watching certain programming because of the V-chip he has installed to help police what they can view.

"I've got everything locked down," said Dunn, noting log-in passwords for the Internet also were off-limits.

Chaney said the boy who showed Saddam's hanging to her son was disciplined, but Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon said the computers, though capable of filtering pornography and other adult sites, were not set up to cut out news events.

Arvon also acknowledged that MySpace, a popular chat and blog Web site among young people, has caused problems in the school district, confirming a police investigation in at least one instance.

"It's supposed to be self-policing, but it's not," Dunn said of MySpace, and he vowed to take additional computer classes to keep up to date on how his children potentially could access mature Web site material.

Citing his role on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Rockefeller said he has learned that anti-Western Islamic populations are using American television broadcasting as a tool to teach their students contempt for the moral standards presented.

"That's all they get to see," he said.

Rockefeller said he plans to reintroduce legislation to expand the FCC's regulatory authority over indecent material to include cable and satellite programming, and give the agency explicit authority over violent programming.

Diana Gaviria doubted whether the parents who met with Rockefeller were worried about their children's exposure to violence and graphic programming, but also noted that what is tolerated now versus years ago was amazing.

Rockefeller particularly was critical of the apparent majority of FCC commissioners who he said in a press release Thursday were not "living up" to looking out for the best interests of the public when it comes to violent broadcasting.

"A good friend of mine said (on Thursday) he never saw me so mad in my entire life," Rockefeller said of the Senate committee's FCC hearing.

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