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Hollywood escapes latest vote on violence.

WASHINGTON The tide turned in Washington last week when Congress decided protection of the First Amendment was more important than beating up the entertainment industry for creating a "culture of violence."

In a critical vote June 16, the House decided by an overwhelming margin against a proposal by House Judiciary chairman Henry Hyde to treat extremely violent material as obscene and thus subject such material to a ban.

You could tell Hyde knew he was about to lose when he began referring to Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.,), as the "gentleman from Hollywood."

After sending Hyde's proposal down to defeat, the House rejected another proposal that would have required the entire entertainment industry, including record companies, movie studios and videogame producers, to create a common labeling system for violent programming.

After weeks--even months--of bashing Hollywood, Congress finally began to worry that it might go too tar.

"Those votes mean that it has been confirmed that conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans, treat the First Amendment with great regard," says Motion Picture Assn. of America CEO and prexy Jack Valenti.

During the last two months, almost any proposal critical of Hollywood had a chance on the House and Senate floor, but last week legislators began to draw a line in the sand, Valenti says.

Some members expressed outrage at proposals to restrict violent content--proposals that began surfacing shortly after the Columbine High School massacre in which two students shot 13 people before taking their own lives.

"We are not going back to burning books, we are not going to lock people up for artistic expression. We cannot violate the Constitution in the name of wanting to do something about violence," said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).

To the surprise of some lobbyists, conservative Republicans jumped in to defend the Constitution.

Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) voted against the Hyde proposal but made it clear how he feels about the entertainment industry.

"If parents allow their children to watch these materials, if they allow them to listen to these materials, as vile, as disgusting, as disgraceful, as obscene, as pornographic as they may be, it is the parents that have to assume ultimate responsibility, and no amount of legislation that we can pass will do that," Barr said.

But it was not completely clear sailing for Hollywood.

The House did pass a "Sense of Congress" resolution declaring that "no industry does more to glorify gun violence than some elements of the motion picture industry."

The resolution calls on the entire entertainment industry to "do everything in its power to stop these portrayals of pointless acts of brutality by immediately eliminating gratuitous violence in movies, television, music and video games."

Representatives from the House and the Senate will meet for a conference later this summer to hammer out their differences. The meeting, which is expected to take several days, provides an opportunity to change the legislation.

The Senate approved several provisions aimed at Hollywood, including an order that the National Institutes of Health study the effects of violent media on kids. The Senate also voted to ban the filming of violent movies on federal lands and to create a national commission on youth violence that would consider the impact of the media on violent behavior.
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Title Annotation:Congress voting on media violence
Author:STERN, CHRISTOPHER
Publication:Variety
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 21, 1999
Words:539
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