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Thomson Intros a Bleeping DVD Player

Broadcasters and FCC Chief Michael Powell will be glad to know that their collective concerns about how to define indecent content have been resolved by our friend in France. Thomson is rolling out a DVD player that automatically blocks swearing, nudity, violence, costume malfunctions and other potentially offensive content.

The players, scheduled to hit shelves at Walmarts and K-Marts over the next couple of months, will be priced at around $80. They will use filtering software developed by ClearPlay Inc. of Salt Lake City. Filters are customized for specific theatrical releases. About 100 titles come pre-installed. Another 500 are available for $20, with monthly updates for $5, all via download from the Web or on CDs. A filter for "Terminator 3" for example, will work on any "Terminator 3" DVD. Users can pick and choose the content they want to skip based according to 14 levels of intensity in four categories -- sex, violence, drug use and profanity. Title with available filters include "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Terminator 3," "When Harry Met Sally" and "Zoolander" to name a few.

The Hollywood community is predictably livid, charging that ClearPlay is altering copyrighted material. Members of the Directors Guild of America filed suit against ClearPlay in September 2002, when the company introduced the filtering product in the form of computer software. That suit is still pending, but Thomson officials indicated they went forward with integrating ClearPlay filters into DVD players because of strong demand from Walmart.

The bleeping DVD player comes at a time when the outcry over indecent TV content is at an all-time high. Broadcasters, facing tougher penalties from lawmakers, recently implored the FCC to be a little more specific about just what is considered indecent. FCC Chief Powell responded that he didn't think it prudent to let the government define broadcast indecency.