Outraged Japanese Mothers
Demand Cartoon Controls

By Jon Herskovitz
From Frances Fontaine
TOKYO, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Outraged Japanese mothers on
Thursday demanded that TV networks adopt technical standards for
animated programmes after hundreds of children nationwide
suffered seizures while watching a top-rated cartoon.
More than 700 mainly school-age children were rushed to
hospitals after watching bright flashing lights on the popular
Pocket Monsters programme on Tuesday night.
``We are gravely concerned at this escalating race, this
competition by the television networks to show ever more
stimulating images, targeting even children,'' the country's
largest mothers' organisation said in a statement.
``It's all commercialism. With incidents like this, we can't
help but believe that this competition for ratings among the
networks is encroaching even into programming for children,''
said Miyo Inoue, who heads the New Japan Housewives'
She called on the networks to conduct a thorough vetting of
programmes from a medical standpoint to prevent a recurrence of
the Pocket Monster phenomenon.
The National Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) of Japan
said the incident will awaken parents to the fact that they must
monitor what their kids are watching on television.
The group, which does not obejct to animated programming per
se, said the Japanese government should think about legislation
mandating screening devices in television sets, known as
``V-chips'' in the United States.
The method allows parents to blank out programs they do not
want their children to watch.
Networks such as Fuji Television and public broadcaster NHK
said they would screen all of their animated programming to
ensure that it does not contain brightly coloured strobe-like
sequences that are suspected of causing visually induced
An executive at a leading producer of animated programming
said the Pocket Monster incident will probably lead Japan to
develop technical standards for animation production.
``When an animated show leads to kids ending up in emergency
rooms, networks and animation production companies have to
re-examine what they are doing,'' said the executive, who
declined to be identified.
Japanese animation is a mutli-billion dollar a year industry
and cartoons have dominated television programming and movie
theatre line-ups for decades. Many Japanese animated films and
programmes are popular outside of Japan.
Network executives said the Pocket Monster incident would
not cure Japan of its animation addiction or lead to a cut in
the amount of time devoted to animated programming.
But they said parental concern was likely to lead networks
and production companies to more carefully examine the quality
of animated fare.

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