- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 20, 2002

PARIS France's newly elected conservative government is preparing to ban late-night television sex shows "in the interest of public health."
A committee set up by Culture Minister Jean-Jacques Aillagon has recommended a ban on pornographic films, watched by an estimated 12 million people, after midnight.
The committee is also looking for ways to extend its proposed ban to films with excessive violence.
The pornography ban drew opposition from cable channels, which say the films, shown between midnight and 5 a.m., already warn parents of the content.
Helene Fatou, a member of the Mr. Aillagon's committee, said the recommendation to ban pornography "has nothing to do with censorship or imposition of a specific moral order."
It is a question of "how to cope with an alarming social phenomenon which has caused widespread concern," she said.
Academics, medical doctors and psychiatrists have joined the rising chorus against films showing lurid sex scenes or violence.
A study by the Committee on Sex on Television concluded that half of children under 12 have seen at least one televised pornographic film.
Phillippe Jeammet, a psychiatrist, said the films "are a form of assault on the affection and intimacy of children by precocious exposure to sex and violence. … Such images do not allow children to preserve their status as children and act like a foreign body with traumatic consequences."
The Supreme Council for Visual Media, the French television watchdog body, said that the proliferating cable pornographic industry has been oblivious to damage caused by pornographic and violent scenes.
The European Union has urged its 15 member states to "take all necessary measures" to ensure TV programs do not include "items likely to damage the physical and mental development of minors."
Britain and Germany are the only EU countries banning pornographic films on television.
In France, current law merely cautions television channels to avoid films violating the "personal dignity" of viewers or the concept of the "protection of childhood."
The vaguely phrased law, which the Ministry of Culture plans to change, allowed cable channels to show hundreds of pornographic films. Organizations such as Kiosque and Multivision distributed a total of 840 such films in 2001.
"Television today has become omnipresent," said Blandine Barret-Kriegel, a philosopher who leads the committee. "Some programs are bound to have negative consequences for young viewers, and we must protect them."
Boris Cyrulnik, a psychiatrist and author, said unfettered television contributes to the "growing number of sexual assaults, rape and incest."
Broad exposure to sex in advertising and the printed media is gradually destroying traditional family life and reducing the number of marriages, he said.
"Today, increasingly men and women no longer need each other besides an occasional tryst without a future," he said.


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