H'wood urges parental guidance

Media execs welcome decency dialogue, not regulation

Major media executives said Tuesday that they welcomed public discussion about decency in the mass media but said it would be wrong for the government or anyone else to force a moral construct upon them.

"I welcome the dialogue as long as it's a dialogue and not a dictate," CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves said during a panel on the second of a two-day "Beyond Primetime" conference convened in New York by Common Sense Media and the Aspen Institute on the issue of children and the media held at the Time Warner Center.

Moonves and the other two panelists, Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons and the Weinstein Co.'s Harvey Weinstein, said that they weigh what they put on the air on or on movie screens but the media can't serve as a substitute parent. That's even more so now with the rise of YouTube and cell phone video, they said. They said they all support the idea of giving as much information as possible so parents can make decisions, and they offered support for technology like the V-chip to block objectionable programming.

The executives said they believe that it's important for them to give information to parents but that they couldn't be expected to just produce family-friendly content.

"We have a responsibility to provide content for that audience … but there are other audiences in the world that we have a responsibility to produce content for," Parsons said.

Asked if media companies do a good job of protecting children from adult content, Parsons said: "We do the best we can."

Weinstein said that parents have a responsibility to keep their kids away from inappropriate content.

"If you think Dick or Les or me are going to do it, you're being a lazy parent," Weinstein said. He said that in his own life, he wouldn't allow his 12-year-old daughter to see "Pulp Fiction" for several more years. He also said that he sympathized with parents who are feeling overwhelmed trying to keep up with the technology but said: "You have to spend time with your kids. We can't do it for you."

Moonves railed against a "moving line" coming out of Washington that has had a chilling effect on the TV industry. He also said that the recent increase in fines was unfair and amounted to punishment for the infamous Janet Jackson-Super Bowl misfire in 2004.

"The level of fines is very high, it's very chilling and it's having an effect on our programming," Moonves said.

Moonves pointed to Sunday's Super Bowl as an example of CBS being responsible broadcasters.

"If we wanted to take certain spots, we could have made a lot more money," Moonves said. He pointed to an ad for the Weinstein Co.'s "Hannibal Rising," in which a critic called it "the most terrifying movie of the new year." CBS objected to the word "terrifying" and after a 7 p.m. Saturday call between Moonves and Weinstein they worked with the critic to change it to "electrifying."

FCC commissioners Michael Copps and Deborah Taylor Tate followed Moonves, Parsons and Weinstein in a separate panel. Copps and Tate disputed what the media moguls said, saying that media is a public health and education issue that needs to be addressed. Copps said that "regulation" is not a dirty word and added he had detected in Congress a serious bipartisan concern about such issues.

"Take heed of this change," Copps said. "The time is now, right now, for you to come up with real solutions.

"I don't think we can wait for executives to say, 'Well, now I have kids, I'll do things differently,' " Copps said. "This is a national priority. This is educating our children."