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As screen violence rises, so do new tactics to curb it

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Decades into the culture wars, the battleground over sexual and particularly violent content in media is expanding. And the dividing lines are as sharply drawn as ever.

On Sunday, Hollywood will shower itself with Oscars. Three of the nominees for best film – "Letters From Iwo Jima," "The Departed," and "Babel" – depict a new level of relentless, highly realistic violence, some observers say.

Meanwhile, federal and some state officials are looking to regulate the escalating level of violence in film, TV, video games, song lyrics, and Web-based entertainment.

But many veterans of the struggle are concluding that regulation is not the answer. It's time, they say, for new ideas and a search for common ground.

"Those who create and sell violent media – and the elected officials, regular citizens, or parents who have a concern that this media is creating a more violent society or contributing to the degradation of our culture – need to come together," says Indianapolis's mayor, Bart Peterson. As the recently elected president of the National League of Cities, Mayor Peterson has adopted the issue of media violence as the theme of his upcoming year in office.

His move is evidence of a heightened nationwide concern over violence in media that is causing a backlash.

On Monday, a measure to criminalize the selling of adult- or mature-rated video games to minors moved to the Indiana Senate for consideration. Last week, citing growing pressure from the public, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a draft report suggesting that it was time to regulate violence over the airwaves in much the same way it does with sex and profanity. In January, the Motion Picture Association of America unveiled proposals to strengthen and clarify the voluntary ratings system used to inform audiences about the content of movies.

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