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Locking out Violence


To many parents of young children, television is something far more intimidating than the vast wasteland it has been called. Instead it is an almighty ocean, perilous and all too enticing. Serial killers in cable movies, bloody episodes of Tales from the Crypt, grisly crime footage on the local news: How to protect a child from the rude shocks of the tube? Forcing all TV to conform to a safe-for-kids standard seems unfair to adults. Advisories that warn of excessive violence are fine, but who can guarantee what kids will do when parents are out of the room?

One potential solution seems to be gaining support. The US President, in a speech to the Conference on the Family and the Media in Nashville, Tennessee, endorsed the V-chip (for antiviolence chip), a technology that would allow parents to lock out programs previously identified as having a certain level of violence. A V-chip provision was included in the telecommunication bill passed by the Senate. Although the House Commerce Committee initially rejected a V-chip provision, the idea is gaining support in the House, which is about to reconsider the measure.

The V-chip is literary a computer chip that would be installed in television sets (adding an estimated $5 to $30 to the cost of a set). The chip would read encoded signals transmitted by broadcasters and cable operators. Shows might be rated, say, on an ascending scale of violence, from 1 to 4. If a parent set the V-chip on No. 3, it would be instructed to delete any program with that level of violence or higher.

To many legislators and others concerned about TV violence – or at least concerned about taking a public stance on the issue – the V-chip seems a neat solution to the problem of asserting parental control. “I think that with a hundred channels coming in the future, parents should be able to push one button and knock gratuitous violence out of their homes,” said cable mogul Ted Turner at a recent press conference. Representative James Moran, a Virginia Democrat, says, “We’re not suggesting this as a perfect solution. All we’re doing is offering something to parents who have to be in the work force. They have no way to effectively control what their children are watching when they’re not home.”

Opponents complain that the V-chip smacks of censorship. Senator Robert Dole, no friend of lewd popular culture, rails against the chip as bringing us “one step closer to government control of what we see on television.” While the Senate bill calls for broadcasters to devise their own rating system, it mandates the government to appoint a commission to do so if TV programmers fail to construct one within a year. Such industry agreement seems unlikely.

Opposition is also coming from broadcasters, who point out that the net-works have already adopted on-air advisories to alert parents to inappropriate programming. Says Lynn McReynolds, vice president of media affairs for the National Association of Broadcasters: “The V-chip won’t be able to tell the difference between Terminator 2 and Schindler’s List. We have problems with any technology that makes a blanket judgment about programming.”

Broadcasters also understandably have problems with any technology that might reduce the potential audience for their shows – and thus the potential ad revenue, Columbia Broadcasting System senior vice president Martin Franks points out, moreover, that V-chip ignores the fact that most homes have more than one TV, and parents surely won’t replace every one. “Short of chaining the children to the sofa in a room in which the V-chip-equipped set is located, I don’t see how this proposal is going to work,” he says. Franks also fears that broadcasters will be barraged by groups with their own definition of objectionable content; one right-to-life group, he says, has already suggested that CBS encode programs dealing with abortions. Cable executives are divided: not all are as supportive as Turner. Says Matthew Blank, president of Showtime Networks: “We have some serious societal issues here. The V-chip seems like an overly simple solution to a very complicated problem.”

Still, it is a solution that enables politicians to take a stand on violence with relatively little pain. “Look,” says a Commerce Committee staff member whose boss opposes the V-chip but still may support it, “it’s easier to make a case for it than against it. This is not censorship. This is parental responsibility.”

And that’s a difficult notion to oppose.

‘The Times’

· Understanding the story

ü Is it true that… (be ready to justify your viewpoint)

Many parents of young children are afraid of television
Cable TV shows many ‘violent’ movies.
The US President thinks that there is too much violence on TV.
The cable mogul Ted Turner opposes V-chips.
V-chip is a small computer.
The government will have a right to control what people see on TV, if we introduce V-chips.
V-chips are not able to tell good films from bad ones.
Children will prefer to use V-chips-equipped TV sets.
Different groups of people have different definition of objectionable TV content.
The V-chip is an overly simple solution to a very complicated problem.


· Discuss the following questions

1. Why does the author compare TV to an almighty ocean and to a vast wasteland?

2. Why does the author use such words as ‘perilous’ and ‘enticing’ speaking about TV?

3. How does the V-chip work?

4. What does Ted Turner think about the new invention? Why does he think so?

5. Why do opponents of the new invention complain that the V-chip ‘smacks of censorship’? Do you agree with them?

6. Why do the broadcasters oppose the introduction of V-chips?

7. Why did a Washington official say that “it’s easier to make a case for the V-chip than against it”?



· Focus on vocabulary


ü Find Russian equivalents to the following words and expressions:

an almighty ocean
to conform to a standard
an advisory
to endorse
to pass a bill
to rail against smth
societal issues
to take a stand on smth


· Sharing the ideas

  1. Do you think that the problem of violence on TV is important not only for America, but for Russia too? Why do you think so? Do you think that modern Russian television promotes violence? Justify your viewpoint.
  2. Do you think that violent movies are more dangerous than violent documentaries? Justify your viewpoint.
  3. Some people think that violence on TV can provoke violence in the streets. There is also a viewpoint that violence in the movies can, on the contrary, appease violence in the streets, providing a harmless vent for human aggression. What viewpoint do you share? Why?
  4. Would you like to have a gadget like the V-chip installed into your TV set? Why? Why not?


· Writing

Write a biography of a TV star.

Use the Internet for information.

Date: 2015-12-24; view: 1153

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