The television industry was urged Wednesday to take advantage of a new antitrust exemption to draft voluntary guidelines for reducing the amount of violence depicted in television programs.

"The evidence is overwhelming that TV violence adds to violence in our society, and there has to be a way to deal with that," said Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., a sponsor of the bill recently signed into law by President Bush.The law grants a limited three-year exemption from antitrust laws that will permit representatives from networks, studios and other segments of the industry to get together and develop guidelines for when, how and how much much violence should be depicted on television.

The act is an outgrowth of several studies reported over recent years indicating that violence on television has an unhealthy effect on children and even some adults.

The studies show that "repeated exposure to violence on television not only makes children more likely to commit violent acts, but desensitizes them to the effects of violence in the real world," Simon and Rep. Dan Glickman, D-Kan., co-sponsorsof the bill, said in a letter to broadcast officials.

Some television executives have expressed opposition to any government move to influence program content, but Simon and Glickman said they were hopeful the industry will respond to the opportunity.

"My belief is that the industry will get together and I hope can establish some standards. ... We can have healthier television fare in this country," Simon said at a news conference.

Glickman stressed that the guidelines are voluntary.

Action by the industry also was urged by representatives of various family and health groups.

Dr. Francis Palumbo of the American Academy of Pediatrics said, "Anyone who watches TV can attest that violence is rampant, that it is commonly used to resolve conflict and that violent acts are carried out by both heroes and villains."

"This year alone, the average child in the United States will witness 1,000 muders, rapes and assaults while viewing television. Violent episodes on prime time television tripled between 1980 and 1988, " Palumbo said.