Watchdogs underwhelmed by FCC report


Both the Parents Television Council and Morality in Media found that the FCC’s report mandated by the Child Safe Viewing Act came up short on substance and will only contribute further delay to dealing with broadcast indecency.

Both organizations were particularly upset that inadequacies in content rating were not addressed more fully, and that the FCC failed to admit that current systems are in their opinion a total failure.

 “We already know that the television ratings system and, by extension, the V-chip, are not workable solutions to the issue of protecting children from harmful media content,” said PTC’s Tim Winter. “Objective research repeatedly confirms that the networks’ self-assigned content ratings are inaccurate, inconsistent and inherently biased.  Having the FCC spend more time trying to call greater attention to inaccurate content ratings is absurd.”

Added MIM’s Robert Peters, “The FCC Report acknowledges that existing ratings and technological solutions have their drawbacks, but fails to acknowledge such ratings and technological solutions have been an abject failure. Nor does it explain why we should assume that more of the same would work now.”

The FCC acknowledged that educating citizens about the tools available was a key compenent moving ahead, but Roberts had a full laundry list of special situations that went unaddressed. He said, “The FCC Report does not discuss the problem of parents who do not speak English or are illiterate, who are ‘technophobic’ or physically or mentally disabled, who are naive or indifferent, or who are neglectful or abusive. Nor does it discuss how even capable and diligent parents can be expected to shield their children outside the home from access to media content that parents have no control over or from the influence of other children whose parents aren’t as capable and diligent as they are.”

It wasn’t all criticism from Roberts. He concluded by saying, “The FCC Report is to be commended for expressing support for the broadcast indecency law.” And PTC was able to praise at least one commissioner. Winters said, “We commend FCC Commissioner Michael Copps for his statement acknowledging that technology alone is not the full answer to the problem.” He concluded, “We call on the Commission to deliver on both the spirit and the letter of the Child Safe Viewing Act in its next review.”

RBR/TVBR observation: A lot of parents are unaware of the V-chip, but even more simply don’t bother to use it. Doesn’t that indicate that most parents simply do not believe that broadcast programming is the cesspool these two organizations like to pretend it is? The simple truth is that thousands of air-hours are broadcast every day without the slightest hint of indecency.

You can’t protect everybody from everything. As parents, frankly, we’re more concerned with protecting our children from the empty intellectual calories television all too often serves up than from otherwise objectionable programming.

We do see value in a universal rating system, but guardedly so, because such systems can easily become tools for censors.

We would not want our television viewing options, nor those of our children, limited by a panel made up solely of PTC and MIM members, although they certainly would deserve a place at the table when such ratings systems are devised.

A lot of people love to blather on about how important it is to protect our children – and then accuse TV as being the child’s most villainous antagonist. It doesn’t matter that nobody can produce a definitive study that proves television harms children. And when you turn on a television, the odds are astronomically in favor of hitting a moment of pure decency.

But they blame TV. Look at Roberts: How do we protect children from the evils of television if their parents “are neglectful or abusive,” he wonders. It seems to us we should be a little bit more worried about protecting these children from neglectful and abusive parents! Solve THAT and the television viewing will take care of itself.

The bottom line is that the broadcast indecency problem is wildly overblown and that any solutions require the lightest regulatory touch – with the First Amendment always top of mind.