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Remarks on the Second Annual Report on Television Violence and an Exchange With Reporters in Albuquerque

October 15, 1996

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 primetime 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 voluntary rating systems 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 3 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 3 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 conscience 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?

[At this point, Dr. Jeffrey I. Cole, director, UCLA Center for Communication Policy, gave a brief update on the study.]

1996 Election

Q. Mr. President, Bob Dole says that you are willing to take responsibility for doing things like this or even the drop in the crime rate but not for problems, especially ethical ones, within your administration, things like firing the Travel Office figures or even towards acceptances 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 who are responsible for helping to create the 10 1/2 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 your campaign contributions 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 4 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 tactic they're using?

The President. No.

Television Violence

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.

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:55 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Pyramid Hotel.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on the Second Annual Report on Television Violence and an Exchange With Reporters in Albuquerque Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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