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ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE First Amendment Experts See Defects in TV Violence Bills; Congress Urged to Abandon Constitutionally Flawed Proposals For IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 26, 1994 WASHINGTON -- Approximately 50 of the country's most noted constitutional experts, taking issue with Attorney General Janet Reno, FCC Chairman Reed Hundt and several prominent members of Congress, said today that the legislative proposals to regulate televised violence run afoul of the First Amendment's free speech protections. In a letter sent today by the American Civil Liberties Union, the experts -- constitutional law professors and legal scholars from America's most respected law schools and institutions -- urged Senators Paul Simon and Ernest Hollings to abandon their unconstitutional efforts to regulate television violence. "Despite the apparent agreement by the networks and cable companies to some form of advisories and monitoring, efforts to curb television violence by legislation or FCC regulation are almost certain to continue," said Robert Peck, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. "This letter indicates the uniformity of opinion by those most schooled in First Amendment law that these efforts are unconstitutional." In their letter to the Senators, which was also distributed today to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the scholars said that rather than enact content regulation, constitutionally unintrusive means -- such as lock boxes and similar devices -- already exist to give parents more control over what programs their children watch. Signatories to the letter include some of the country's most respected constitutional scholars, such as Gerald Gunther of Stanford Law School, William Van Alstyne of Duke Law School and Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School. Their view provides an ideologically balanced strong contrast to the opinions expressed by Attorney General Reno. Reno has relied on a Supreme Court case involving indecent speech broadcast over radio as the basis for her opinion on the bills. The experts disagreed, however. "In our view, the Attorney General's recent declaration that these bills were constitutionally sound cannot be squared with relevant case law and constitutional principles," the scholars said. "We urge that Congress not act on such constitutionally flawed bills. "All three bills raise serious constitutional issues that, in our view, have not received the careful and deliberative study that they deserve," the letter continued. "They involve a content and viewpoint bias that cannot be reconciled with the Constitution or prior precedent in the broadcasting field." The professors and scholars said although "none of us would be called advocates of violent television programs, we believe that First Amendment rights of viewers and broadcasters would be abridged by limits on the editorial discretion of this branch of the mass media." ============================================================= ACLU Free Reading Room | A publications and information resource of the gopher:// | American Civil Liberties Union National Office | | "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty"


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