Mixed feelings about new adult content TV warning star

Growing concern over violent and sexually explicit material on the country's three television networks prompted Czech MPs to pass a new media law, which introduces a warning system for harmful content. The law, which came into effect last week, requires networks to place a star on the screen if the material shown is 'physically, psychologically, or morally harmful' to children. Programmes that merit a star are only allowed on air after 10 o'clock at night, and TV networks can be fined up to 10 million crowns if these new guidelines are ignored. But not everyone is happy with the system, and few believe it will work. Helen Belmont has more.

The ambiguity of the law has some people concerned, including psychologists. They say what is psychologically, and even morally, harmful is subjective and specific to each child. The law itself fails to provide a clear definition of what content it considers inappropriate, and it's up to the networks themselves to define what is harmful to younger viewers.

The network which has attracts the greatest criticism is the massively popular commercial station TV Nova. The station keeps ahead in the ratings with a steady diet of late-night soft porn and Hollywood blockbusters. TV Nova's controversial director, Vladimir Zelezny, says he will show the star 24 hours a day, to avoid any possible fines. Martin Chalupsky is the spokesman for TV Nova.

"We're going to introduce the star system very soon, in the very near future, but first of all we want to consult the matter with the Council for Radio and TV Broadcasting in order to agree on how to judge individual programmes, what constitutes suitable and unsuitable material."

Nova has been harshly criticised for showing too much sex and violence, and we asked Mr Chalupsky whether Nova was against the warning system on principle.

"It's been passed by law, so there's nothing to discuss. Now it's just a matter of finding a way to resolve the problem of how to indicate whether a programme is suitable. As for the amount of sex and violence on TV Nova, well that's the subject of a much bigger debate, but the simple fact is that's the kind of TV that's being produced in the world today."

The law hopes to give parents more knowledge about television shows, but it's ultimately up to parents to regulate what their child watches. Without parental cooperation, it's unlikely that the warning system will deter any children or teenagers from watching inappropriate programmes. It might even have the opposite effect and tempt younger viewers to watch content that has been deemed harmful to them.

Whether the law is successful remains to be seen. An informal public opinion poll taken by the newspaper Pravo shows that 64 percent of respondents do not believe that the new warning system will have any effect at all.

Author: Helen Belmont
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