No triangles, but violent TV to carry warnings

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Warnings are to be issued before violent programmes are screened on television as part of measures to reduce the impact of violent television on children.

But the voluntary measures to be announced today by Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, may disappoint campaigners who wanted tougher statutory curbs.

The broadcasting authorities have rejected the idea of screening a symbol, such as a red triangle, to highlight violent programmes and there will be no new statutory controls.

The broadcasters are planning a seminar in the New Year to agree a formula for programme listings to highlight violent programmes.

Announcers may repeat the warnings before programmes are screened. Viewers will be informed about the use of the 9 pm "watershed" to protect children from violent programmes intended for adults.

The code of practice on violent programmes is likely to be tightened by the Independent Television Commission, the Broadcasting Standards Council and the BBC.

Mrs Bottomley is refusing to drop the idea of a V-chip, an electronic device which could screen out violent programmes to prevent them being seen by children, although the experts are sceptical about its practicality.

She complained in November that the broadcasters were not doing enough to protect viewers from violence on television. Programmes such as Cracker and Prime Suspect have been criticised for using scenes of graphic violence.

The aim of Mrs Bottomley's launch today for the tighter controls is to show that the Government is doing something in response to the campaign for "moral revival" after the stabbing a year ago of the London teacher, Philip Lawrence.

She will warn the broadcasters at a meeting today that the Government will be forced by public opinion to introduce legislation, unless they abide by the new voluntary codes.

Some of her own backbenchers on the liberal wing of the Tory Party believe she is engaging in the politics of the "nanny state". The drive to remove violence and sleaze from television follows criticism of recent episodes of TV soaps, such as EastEnders, Brookside and Neighbours.

At least one Tory MP who rejects the link violent films and crime privately says Terminator, which portrays a homicidal robot blasting its way across Los Angeles, is one of his favourite films.

That view is unlikely to be heard much in evidence today, however. Mrs Bottomley will be taking a high profile reinforcing her view in a letter to the broadcasting authorities that something should be done about the "potentially unhealthy concentration" on crime and emergency services.