Brandon Tartikoff, former network TV programmer and movie mogul, is greatly disturbed by what he perceives to be a burgeoning new era of censorship on America's television airwaves.
Between all of the new projects stemming from his current incarnation as a TV megaproducer, Mr. Tartikoff -- the former president of NBC Entertainment and head of Paramount Pictures -- has been railing against the government's sudden preoccupation with TV violence.
It smacks of self-serving hypocrisy to Mr. Tartikoff.
"Clearly, we're at a crisis point with violence in our streets," the 44-year-old Mr. Tartikoff said over the phone yesterday morning from his office in New Orleans.
"To that degree, I understand why there are congressional sessions and the seeking of legislation to help in the cause. But at the same time, Congress should be implementing the Brady Bill (over handgun control) more stringently and hiring a new drug czar rather than cutting the drug war budget in half."
He believes that television was merely a convenient target for members of Congress, "who after all are in the constant process of getting re-elected and getting their names in the paper. I mean, coming out against television violence is like coming out in favor of brotherhood week. Who is going to be for violence on TV? It's safe. So with the inability of Congress to really get the economy going full throttle, and to get jobs back into the marketplace, this gave them all something to do.
"This way, the congressional leaders come out looking strong."
What he fears most is that the next step, already being discussed, is the development of a so-called "V-chip" (or violence chip) that would be outfitted into TV sets and block programs deemed to contain excessive violence.
"I live in dread of that legislation," he said. "Once they start tossing V-chips out there, not too far behind that will come an S-chip for sex, then the P-chip for politics. And then an O-chip for obscenity.
Then they'll try to start censoring the news. And then we will have given away the greatest communications medium created by man to a body of government that has never improved anything it has gotten its paws into."