Dodd frowns on reducing movie violence
Former Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, now CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, rebuffed the idea of reducing the amount of violence in movies and television Friday, saying that "getting in the business of regulating content is a slippery slope."
At a speech before the National Press Club, he said that instead of stopping the creation of some content, the industry is committed to "providing a choice for people'' regarding the kind of content they want to watch; "giving parents the controls'' they need to effectively control what their children are exposed to; and educating people about the controls that are in place.
"Choice, control, education,'' he said, are the underpinnings of the industry's strategy.
Dodd said that as he told Vice President Joe Biden's task force on reducing gun violence, the industry `"wants to be part of the conversation'' on violence-prevention methods and is open to ideas. He stressed that the movie rating system itself was voluntarily adopted half a century ago and has been modified and enhanced repeatedly to reflect national standards and expectations.
Dodd, who spent six years in the House of Representatives and 30 years as a Democratic U.S. senator from Connecticut, said that after representing Newtown the tragedy "is much more than an abstraction to me.'' He said he still has trouble talking about the massacre without losing his composure and expects to for the rest of his life.
He said that what can be done to address gun violence is a big question, but he added that he believes the biggest single thing that Congress can do is to improve the nation's ability to deal with mental-health issues.
Dodd showed himself to be an indefatigable cheerleader for the industry, giving a spirited account of "why movies matter,'' extolling both the economic power and the cultural value of "the largest, most stimulating canvas'' for creative vision.
"Movies stimulate, provoke, challenge and educate,'' he said. "The best movies elevate and enrich. They dare us to think differently, to walk uncomfortably in another person's shoes.''
China is the fastest-growing movie market in the world, he said, already the second-largest foreign market behind Japan. He added that box-office receipts were up 31 percent in China last year, and that 10 new movie screens are going online there every day.
Dodd mentioned only in passing the bruising defeat the industry suffered last year when the Stop Online Piracy Act was defeated by Internet companies and users who felt that the effort to protect intellectual property online was an attack on free speech.
"The quality of movies and TV shows is outstanding and it's getting better every day,'' Dodd said. "That's why we must protect these products. The Internet needs to work for everyone. We have to find a way to protect both free speech and intellectual property.''