Statement of the National Coalition Against Censorship Regarding the Media Marketing Accountability Act of 2001

There are many positive initiatives Congress could undertake to respond to concerns about violent or sexual content in entertainment?media literacy training, peer-directed non-violent dispute resolution, and comprehensive sex education, to name a few. In addition, support for non-commercial television and for youth programs and activities in sports and the arts could play a positive role by offering youth a wider range of entertainment options.

The National Coalition Against Censorship regrets that Senator Lieberman has chosen instead to undermine free speech by introducing legislation intended to coerce and threaten entertainment companies whose programs and products he considers "inappropriate" for youth, even though they are legal and fully protected by the First Amendment.

While the Media Marketing Accountability Act of 2001 purports to protect children, NCAC believes that parents are the best arbiters of what is acceptable for their minor children to view, not the government. The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently supported this view, recognizing that there is no single "right" way to raise children, and that responsible parents have widely divergent views about child-rearing.

It is no justification that the legislation seeks to limit marketing to reflect the industry’s rating system. That system is a voluntary effort to provide information to consumers, who may rely on it or not, as they choose. Since government-compelled ratings would raise serious constitutional issues, it follows that government restrictions on the marketing of legal material to reflect such ratings is similarly suspect. Besides, rating systems pose other problems?music, art and entertainment do not lend themselves to description, like the contents of a tube of toothpaste.

No one has to watch a program they do not like, or purchase music they find offensive. Each of us is free to comment on anything we find objectionable by expressing our views publicly or to producers of entertainment products. The exchange of opinions, ideas and information is a vital aspect of our democracy, and allows all of us to make more informed judgments. We should encourage this dialogue, not chill it.

We oppose government officials acting as "culture cops." Like earlier similar efforts, the goal of this bill is to impose one viewpoint about what is "good for us" to hear, see, and read. It demonstrates a lack of respect for the community as a whole, including our nation’s teenagers and children (and future leaders), who are more intelligent and capable of making informed judgments than some of our nation’s lawmakers are willing to admit.

The views expressed by the National Coalition Against Censorship do not necessarily represent the views of each of its participating organizations.

For more information contact:

Joan Bertin, Executive Director
National Coalition Against Censorship
212/807-6222 x15

Gary Daniels, Media Affairs Coordinator
National Coalition Against Censorship
212/807-6222 x22