Euro Parliament supports kids TV controls

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BRUSSELS -- The European Parliament on Wednesday backed demands for tight controls over the content of television programs shown at peak times for children.

At their plenary session in Brussels, the Euro-MPs called for tough regulation to ensure that broadcasters and video game manufacturers ban harmful images and content that may be seen by children. These include violent, racist or pornographic content and extend to the Internet, where sexual predators posed a more direct threat to children.

The parliament backed a report drafted by Italian Euro-MP Roberta Angelilli, which called for the creation of "an adequate, effective and proportionate regulation system in dialogue with providers, the media (public and private TV companies, advertisers the press, video games, mobile telephones and the Internet) and industries, aimed, among other things, at prohibiting the broadcasting of harmful images and contents (including cyber-bullying) and the marketing of violent video games."

The report calls on governments to aid parental control by providing a uniform, EU-wide labeling system for television programs. And they said authorities needed to be particularly vigilant as new technologies can give children access television programs at any time, from any computer with an Internet connection.

"Greater consideration is needed to review the mass media's unrestricted right of access to children and the right of the child to access the mass media without restriction," the report said.

The parliament said that similar classification and labeling should be used for video games and that the recently agreed-upon European system for age-classification of computer and video games (PEGI) was a good starting point.

There was particular concern about child pornography on the Internet and how Web sites created a new area of anonymity for those preying on children. The Euro-MPs voted for access suppliers, search engines, police and even banks to co-ordinate their activities to block payment for illegal content on the Internet involving minors. They said that the European Commission -- the EU's executive authority -- should consider one of its basic priorities to be strengthening "cross-border operations against child pornography Internet sites and to improve cooperation between public authorities and private sector bodies with a view to making a commitment to close down illegal Web sites."

The Internet and digital cameras have made it much easier for sexual predators to pursue children: some figures put the number of sites with child-sex material as jumping 1,500% from 1997 to 2005. A major problem for law enforcement agencies is that many sites and children being abused are not in the EU, but in the developing world. The Parliament called for credit card companies to block payment for pedophile material, and for Internet service providers and search engines to block access to dangerous sites -- closing down the sites if they are based in the EU.
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