They're at it again. By "they," I mean the Federal Communications Commission. The "it" refers to regulating television programming. And "again"? Well, this isn't the first time they've pulled this trick out of their hat.
Remember the uproar over Janet Jackson's nipple in Super Bowl 38? CBS (who aired the game) and MTV (producers of the halftime show) were fined, bringing a crackdown on "indency" during the "Family Hour" of television. (The Family Hour was instituted in 1975 and mandated networks air family friendly programming from 8 pm to 9 pm. It was eventually discontinued in 1977 after court battles.)
This week, a report was released revolving around the nebulous term "violence" in programs aired when children could potentially watch. Never mind the FCC has never defined what is indecent or profane: is it the use of vulgarities, sex, a program with different morals than the "majority" of the country? They've resisted calls to give broadcasters a clear idea of what will merit a fine. Instead, they say they'll "know it when they see it."
So as we now take aim at violence, here are my questions. What constitutes violence? Is it gunshots? Blood? Fistfights? Arguing? Slamming doors? Chases? Blowing up buildings? If any of these things will get a fine, then a whole slew of programming on the networks can merit a fine based on their current timeslot. "Jericho," "Survivor," "Smallville," "Smackdown," "COPS," "The Simpsons"…dare I go on? And if we expand the time frame to the 9:00 hour also…well, there goes the primetime lineup.
It is claimed by the FCC, and backed up by scientific data, that prolonged exposure to violence is damaging, though it can also be beneficial. Which leads to the inevitable set up: this is for the children.
Ah, yes, the children. That equally nebulous demographic used as the sole reason the government wants to further tell us what we can and can not watch. Evidently, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin does agree parents are the first and last line of defense on what their children watch. (What an idea…parental responsibility.) But he also claims getting violence out of the 6 am to 10 pm time slots will be another "tool" to be used by the parents.
Just like television ratings were tools (1997)…and CD ratings (1985)…and video game ratings (1994)…and the V Chip (1999). None of these "tools" is enough, apparently. Parents still can't do their jobs and be parents. Let's be completely honest for a minute. How well do any of the other advisory systems work? Frankly, they don't. It isn't store owners/employees job to monitor what people buy. It's the consumers job and, of course, the parents.
Why not enact legislation which would help parents to not need two incomes to survive? How about universal healthcare? What about mandatory salary increases in line with the rate of inflation? How about mandatory 40 hour work weeks so parents can spend time at home? And how about this: telling parents to be a parent? You brought the child into the world; you take responsibility for it.
But that's too hard and it doesn't get votes. Telling people to be mature isn't something any of us are ready for. So, instead, we have the FCC looking to control what comes into our homes. This from the same people who declined to investigate the National Security Agency's wiretapping scandal last year. Gee, wiretapping or making sure little Johnny doesn't see any blood on TV. Which is more important?
Moreover, let's hypothesize that the 8-9 hour does become "family friendly" again. This is all in the name of the "children" remember…and to help the parents who use TV as a babysitter. How many of those parents will tell their child to get in bed at 9? If they have the willpower to get their youngster in bed, they can certainly keep an eye on the television. That's why making 8-9 FF (family friendly) won't work. Parents have been emasculated to a point where the kids run the home.
Let's not forget the advent of the little thing called the internet, a technological breakthrough which delivers all sorts of content to whomever wants it. If you can't watch "Jericho" at home, then go online or to a friend's house or record it. For whatever reason, people want their children to live in bubbles to protect their "innocence." Does this also mean all news programs will be relegated to only the 11 pm newscast because of their violent images? Probably not, but no one ever bothers to ask the question.
Another recommendation in this report is to allow all of us to receive only the cable channels we want. Fantastic, I'm on board with that plan. Get rid of ABC Family because I find Pat Robertson to be repugnant. Toss out BET, Fox News (and Bill O'Reilly), the Golf station, Versus…hell, it's probably easier to list the stations I want to pay for. AMC, TCM, Food Network, Sci Fi, ESPN, ESPN 2…everything else can go in the garbage for all I care.
But cable companies and stations are balking at this. How else are they going to get money for their programs if people can pick and choose what they want to see? How many people are really going to pay to listen to "fair and balanced" news on Fox News? (And just to show I'm not bashing just Fox, I can do without MSNBC and its cousin CNBC, too, as well as CNN.) I can whittle my stations down to two dozen at the most. Just keep in mind that for every station I drop, I want a reduction in my bill accordingly. Betcha that will never pass.
Chances are if Congress passes this law, there will be lawsuits coming out of the woodwork to challenge it. Based on simply precedent (the 1977 Family Hour ruling), it shouldn't stand a chance. But why even chance it with the current make-up of the Supreme Court?
It's parental responsibility, nothing more and nothing less.