THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Albuquerque, New Mexico) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release October 15, 1996 REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT 2ND ANNUAL REPORT ON TV VIOLENCE The Holiday Inn Pyramid Hotel Albuquerque, New Mexico
1:55 P.M. MDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. I want to thank Dr. Cole for being here today, and for the extensive study that he has conducted. I want to thank Senator Paul Simon and the executives of the four major networks who agreed that this study should be done and then saw to it that it was done.
Nothing is more important than strengthening our families and helping our parents to teach their children good values. We know that television can be a positive force or a destructive force in the lives of our children. Every parent knows that exposure to TV violence can be numbing and send the wrong message to their kids. And parents whose children grew up watching programs like Sesame Street, as our daughter did, know that television can teach, as well as entertain.
Parents need our help to protect their children from harmful or inappropriate forces from outside the home, and help them pass on their values to their children. This is something our administration cares deeply about. Tipper Gore sounded the first alarm almost a decade ago in her book, "Raising PG Kids In An X-Rated Society." And Hillary wrote eloquently about this in her book. Today's comprehensive report shows that where broadcast television is concerned we are moving measurably in the right direction -- away from violence and toward more programming for children. We have a long way to go, but we are making progress for our children.
The study notes several positive trends over the past year, including a decrease in the number of TV series and made-for-TV movies with frequent violence; fewer broadcasts of violent films originally released in theaters; fewer children's series with sinister combat violence; an increase in the use of advisories about violence. The picture is not all bright. Theatrical movies are still the most violent programs when they're broadcast on television. Even promotional ads for these films are violent. Some prime time specials have begun to feature real and staged animal attacks. Emerging broadcast networks are showing a higher percentage of violent shows.
So there is work still to be done. But this work has been begun and it is bearing fruit. Everyone has a responsibility in bringing this kind of change -- parents, the entertainment industry, government, each of us as individuals. Step by step, working together, our administration, especially the Vice President and I, have worked to make television better for our families, since my first year in office when I commended the leaders of broadcast television for their decision to include parental advisories on violence. We have challenged the entertainment industry to find their way back to family programming, and challenged parents to do their part, as well.
We insisted that the Telecommunications Act require new TV sets to include a violence chip, a V-chip, that will give parents the ability to screen out violent or inappropriate programming for their young children. In my State of the Union Address, I challenged broadcasters to develop a voluntary rating system that would enable the V-chip to work. And earlier this year in a conference at the White House, the entertainment industry showed very good citizenship in agreeing to set up a voluntary rating system.
Over a year ago I asked the FCC to broadcast air at least three hours of educational children's programming each week. Last July, I invited the leaders of the entertainment industry and children's television and others to meet me in the White House to discuss how to improve the quality of children's television.
As a result, I reached agreement with the broadcasters on a proposal under which each broadcaster now will air three hours a week of educational children's programming. The FCC adopted the proposal and the market for educational television for children is now booming. I want to commend the entertainment industry for stepping up to this issue. And, of course, I want to thank the thousands of parents across our country who served as a conscious and a prod for so long. The progress we're making shows how we can best meet our challenges -- working together, employing common sense and finding common ground.
It accomplishes nothing simply to rail against violence. That's like yelling at the TV or the movie screen alone in a room. We will continue to sit down, to work with entertainment leaders, to fight for the public interest. I'm confident we will continue to make progress for our families and, again, I want to thank Dr. Jeff Cole for the fine work that he has been doing. I'd like to ask him to come up now and make a few remarks about the report.
DR. COLE: Thank you, Mr. President. It is an honor to be here and have the opportunity to brief you on the work we've done, and we acknowledge the leadership your administration has taken in this issue more than any other presidential administration before.
Our work, which we certainly will make available to you and happy to discuss in detail later, is based on an arrangement between the four broadcast networks and Senator Paul Simon. And it was an arrangement that had guaranteed our independence, but at the same time, at my insistence, we really wanted to work with the broadcast networks in addition to just issuing the report, to really discuss our findings, our recommendations, to meet with them on a regular basis, to talk about ways that we could implement our recommendations. And it is our sense from year 1 to year 2, based on a fairly rigorous methodology, that things have begun to improve. They are clearly moving in the right direction.
The beauty of this system is, there will be at least a third report -- and we hope this becomes a regular part of television on an annual basis -- but at least a third report that will be able to tell us whether this is the beginning of a trend or whether this is just an aberration or part of the natural rhythms of television that improve and change on things that move forward and backwards. It is our clear sense that the broadcast networks are committed to this course of action and we hope to see what we think will be continued improvement over subsequent seasons.
What we did, very, very briefly is, we broke television last year into five areas: television series, made-for-television movies, theatrical films shown on television, films that are made for the movie theater and placed on television, on-air promotions where the networks promote themselves and children's television.
Last year, we found there were nine television series on the four broadcast networks that raised frequent concerns about how they dealt with violence; this year, we found there were five. Among television movies, we looked -- and our approach is not a sampling approach, it's an approach that looks at everything on network television -- we looked at close to 200 television movies both seasons. In the first season we found about 14 percent that we thought raised concerns about violence; this year, it drops modestly to 10 percent.
In theatrical films, this is where we've found the majority of violence and the most gruesome violence and the most intense and graphic violence. Last year, 42 percent of theatrical films shown on the four broadcast networks raised issues of violence. This year, it drops to 29 percent, an important improvement and, yet, it's still where most of the violence is.
On-air promotions, we found, since we thought this was the easiest area for the networks to deal with, we found the greatest improvement. A variety of measures in policy were taken, new people were hired, reporting relationships were changed and we found improvement in that area except for ads for theatrical films or ads for films about to open in the theater. We found those still to be filled with 20, 30 scenes of violence in 30 seconds.
And then, lastly, in children's television, we identified last year what we called "sinister combat violence," which is children's programming that's about action, about violence, that's only about action. Alternatives to violence are not considered where the action or the violence or the fighting is the theme of the show, it's accompanied by pulsating music, the person who commits the violence is usually heroic -- we found seven of those shows last season, we found four this season. They are still among the most popular shows.
Clearly, there is much, much work that needs to be done. This is just the beginning. We hope it's the beginning of a trend, but we do think everything has moved in the right direction. And I'm sure --
Q Bob Dole says that you are willing to take responsibility for doing things like this -- but -- but not for problems, especially ethical ones, within your administration. Things like firing the Travel Office figures or even towards -- of questionable campaign donations by the Democrats and by the campaign. I wonder what your response to that is?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we're going to have a debate tomorrow night. But I have not only tried to take responsibility for the things that I have some responsibility for, good and bad, but also to share responsibility for the good news with the American people that are responsible for helping to create the 10.5 million more jobs and bringing the crime rate down -- and in the case of where we're going to be tomorrow night, in San Diego County, reducing the problem of illegal immigration. So I tried to follow a balanced report.
Senator Dole takes the position if it's good, I didn't have anything to do with it; and, if it's bad, I must have stayed up all night planning it. So that's just politics and we'll see some more of that, I'm sure. But we'll have time to discuss that in the debate.
Q Will you ask for the old campaign contributions to be returned?
Q Mr. President, I'm wondering if you're worried about TV violence tomorrow night? Specifically, what goes through your mind when Senator Dole, as he is in a speech right now, questions your personal integrity and that of the administration, itself?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, he's been doing quite a lot of that and I'll have a chance to answer that at the appropriate time.
Q Nothing --
THE PRESIDENT: No, what I -- again I will say, you know, my view is this country is better off than it was four years ago. And we have worked hard to make it so. And we've worked hard by concentrating on ideas and issues, not insults. We've spent very little time worrying about our opponents. And we spent a lot more time being concerned about the American people. I expect to do that tomorrow -- issues, ideas, not insults. And the American people can simply make up their own mind. They'll have a lot of time to evaluate it, they can make up their own mind.
Q He just finished his toughest attack so far on your integrity. He called your administration self-righteous, self-serving, arrogant, swaggering. It says you, personally, do not keep your word. Are you worried about this new tact their using?
THE PRESIDENT: No.
Q Does Senator Dole get some credit for speaking out against Hollywood violence? Would he be entitled to some of the credit for this plan?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, this project in particular was underway well before Senator Dole ever said anything. I think that anybody who speaks out in a constructive way is doing a responsible thing.
You know, I went to California in December of '93 and challenged the entertainment industry to work with me to reduce violence and to improve the quality of programming. We had people from all the networks meeting with me in early '94, and then they reached this agreement to work with Senator Simon and Dr. Cole in doing something which I think is quite important.
So I would hope that all Americans would be continually coming to grips with this, because we want to have total First Amendment freedom of speech, but we also want to have a society in which the culture supports families in raising their children. There is no more important job, there is no more important agenda. So I think anyone who speaks out in an affirmative way can make a positive contribution.
And, again, I want to say that, Dr. Cole, it's rather remarkable to me that this unusual partnership with all of the networks and Senator Simon and UCLA has worked out well; because you can tell by what he said today that nobody's attempted to censor him. He's been given full freedom to evaluate these programs, to report on them and to say what he thinks.
Do you want to say anything about that?
DR. COLE: No, I appreciate that, and it has been an absolutely independent project. We also extended an invitation to Senator Dole to be fully briefed on this if he would like, and we're waiting to hear if he's interested. But he has every opportunity to be briefed in the same way the President has been.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
END 2:07 P.M. MDT