A group of Democrat U.S. senators led by well known video game critics Joseph Lieberman, Hillary Clinton and Dick Durbin, as well as Republicans Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback, have convinced a Senate committee to initially approve a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) into video game and other electronic media use, though it has not yet received a full Senate vote.
According to a CNET News report, Lieberman described The Children and Media Research Advancement Act, which does not include any reference to restricting the sale of any media to minors, as “a big step toward helping parents get the information they need about the effect of media on their children”, following its passing by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
The bill, which was originally proposed in 2003, has won support from organizations such as the National Institute on Media and the Family, the Center for Media and Child Health and the American Psychological Association. However advocacy group Citizens Against Government Waste have claimed that the study is redundant since similar research is already underway by non-governmental groups.
The original version of the bill allocated $90 million for the study, but as of yet no figure has been confirmed for the latest version. The intention of Lieberman at least, to judge by comments on his website, is to confirm a link between violent video games and behaviour in minors.
Separately of this bill, Senators Hillary Clinton, Joe Liberman, and Evan Bayh recently introduced the Family Entertainment Protection Act, which would impose fines of $1,000 or 100 hours of community service for the first act of selling Mature or Adults-Only games to minors, with $5,000 or 500 hours for each additional offense. Thus, it seems likely that The Children and Media Research Advancement Act would act as some kind of causative justification for elements of the Family Entertainment Protection Act, if carried out successfully.
The lack of proof in this area has been an obstacle to a number of different state bills in the past. However, it will have to prove an overwhelmingly negative link in order to address First Amendment concerns, which have always been the primary reason for the lack of successful legislation against video games in the U.S.
"Down the road when - if there is some sort of finding that there is harm in this - then we're going to see calls to regulate speech because of the potential harm," said Marv Johnson, legislative counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union, as cited by CNet. "That's where there's going to be a problem."