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The objective of this paper is to examine the so-called "v-chip" and its potential as a way to control the content of television programs. While it represents a politically attractive way to deal with the problem of violence on television, it will not prove to be an effective and useful way to actually control what American children view on television.
The v-chip represents the first technology-based attempt to censor broadcast content. The v-chip is a special computer chip that can be built into a television set that is capable of reading an electronics rating signal and blocking programs with potentially objectionable violence, sex or language. (Wall Street Journal:A14).
In the past, the actual program content of a television program was controlled by two things-regulation from the Federal Communications Commission, which has the power to grant and take away broadcast licenses, and secondly by the broadcast networks themselves.
This latter task has been performed primarily by network "broadcast standards" executives who preview show scripts in early production and then make final changes in dialogue during the final taping of a show. (Silver:68).
From the perspective of the FCC, the problems are more obscenity than violence. In the 1960s, for example, a swollen Lucille Ball could not say the word "pregnant" on the air, while other television shows such as "The Untouchables" were filled with stories of gun battles between police and gangsters. It is true that the way violence was shown on television was not as graphic as the typical movies; there was far less gore and blood involved. However, the immediate access of children to television and the sheer number of programs that contain acts of violence have focused attention on television as the medium that has the greatest...