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Thursday, 26 July, 2001, 07:30 GMT 08:30 UK
Rap boss crashes Senate hearing
Snoop Dogg CD
A sticker is currently used on CDs with explicit content
Rap label boss Russell Simmons has gatecrashed a US Senate censorship hearing to tell senators that the lyrics of rap music were not to blame for society's ills.

Simmons, who founded the influential Def Jam label, had been refused permission to be a witness at the hearing - but was allowed to speak after he turned up on Wednesday.

The hearing discussed the separate ratings system used for music, films and electronic games, and to examine whether a universal system would be easier for parents.

The entertainment industry have argued that this would not work, as each medium is different.

Simmons argued against any further restrictions.

Senator Joseph Lieberman
Lieberman: Will hear the new plans
"Some of the songs you may find offensive - protest songs and other songs are actually a reflection of the reality that needs to be expressed," he said.

"The real issue is how do we address these issues."

Simmons said that hip-hop and rap had emerged out of the black community. "This effort to censure hip-hop has deep-seated racial overtones."

Simmons' Def Jam label helped bring rap and hip-hop music into the mainstream, releasing the first albums of LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys and Warren G.

Actor William Baldwin also testified at the hearing, arguing that the media did not cause violent behaviour.

"The core causes are drug and alcohol abuse, divorce and family breakdown and physical and sexual abuse," he said.

'Aggressive marketing'

"The culprits are neglect, poverty, mental illness and easy access to firearms."

Interest in the influence on children of the entertainment industry has intensified since a report last year by the Federal Trade Commission.

It accused the industry of "routinely and aggressively" marketing sexually explicit and violent films, video games and songs to youngsters.

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee is chaired by Democrat Joseph Lieberman, who has campaigned for stricter controls on the entertainment media, particularly those aimed at children.

Lieberman said that there was a growing sense that the media preoccupation with sex and violence was having a harmful effect on America's children.

The music industry already places parental advisory "explicit content" labels on records with sexually graphic or violent lyrics, but does not give details of the offensive material.

Some members of Congress and parental advocacy groups have argued that this approach is too vague, and that parents should be given more details about content, as happens with television and film ratings.

See also:

25 Jul 01 | Music
US music ratings talks begin
24 Apr 01 | Music
Report slates US music industry
06 Jul 01 | Film
Baldwin leads plea to Bush
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