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Holding Hollywood in check

During their first presidential debate, George W. Bush and Al Gore didn't spend much time on the entertainment industry's excesses.

Mr. Bush said that "I've been standing up to Big Hollywood," and Mr. Gore criticized Tinseltown's "cultural pollution." And that was about it.

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But action continues on other fronts. The Hearst-Argyle group, which owns 27 TV stations reaching almost 18 percent of US households, announced it will not run ads on its stations for R-rated movies before 9 p.m.

Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC television, had already said that it bans R-rated movie ads before 9 p.m.

These are the kind of modest steps that - if gathered with many others being proposed - could have a real and positive effect.

Among other productive suggestions: revamp the movie-rating code to get rid of the nearly meaningless "R" rating. Replace it with at least two categories that would better distinguish less-offensive "soft R" films from "hard R" pictures that probably few parents would want their teenagers to see.

Or how about state attorneys general flooding the industry with civil lawsuits claiming harm, as they did in their campaigns against tobacco companies?

According to "The Cinematic Century" (Applause Books, 1999), today is the anniversary of two of film's most famous lines. On Oct. 6, 1927, at the premire of "The Jazz Singer" at the Warner Theater in New York, Al Jolson proclaimed "You ain't heard nothin' yet!" - and ending forever the era of silent motion pictures. And in 1962 a certain suave, tuxedoed superspy first introduced himself as "Bond ... James Bond," at the debut of "Dr. No" in London.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society