Watchdog remains on the indecency beat


L. Gordon Crovitz took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to opine that the recent court ruling striking down FCC fleeting indecency policy was actually a good thing, leading to the empowerment of parents to monitor their children’s television viewing and perhaps leading to “more decency.” Morality in Media’s Robert Peters is back to try to take down Crovitz’s argument.

Peters points out that parents may have tools to restrict their children’s program viewing, but that doesn’t mean they will use them. And sometimes that failure is not one of choice, but of neglect, lack of time or lack of knowledge, with children the victims.

He also said the ratings systems used by Hollywood for both movies and television are “shams.”
He took issue with the notion that lack of FCC enforcement will actually increase the amount of decent programming.

Peters concluded, “I would add that Mr. Crovitz is wrong when he says that TV standards ‘have only fallen since the federal government started monitoring broadcasting for indecency in the 1970s.’ As far back as 1972, TV Guide reported, ‘America’s attitudes towards sex, nudity and language are changing fast – and so are television’s. Too fast?’ (Max Gunther, ‘TV and the New Morality,’ 10/14/72). The above article appeared just four years after the MPAA abandoned its voluntary Hays Code, which had governed the content of films since the 1930s.”

RBR-TVBR observation: To agree with Peters, you have to believe that certain words are so harmful they have to be put under wraps. Do we really want to go back to the 1950s? Was it really necessary to bowdlerize history in the movies? Do we have to edit Admiral Farragut down to “Darn the torpedoes, full speed ahead”? We think not.

As for the TV Guide article, if Peters is suggesting that TV is responsible for changing American attitudes toward anything, we’d like to see some proof. We believe the opposite, that television reflects American attitudes.

It is probably the most democratic art form ever invented. The constant in-depth program research and audience measurement applied to it – and the desire on the part of the programmers to attract, not chase away, viewers — amounts to a popular election process conducted on a perpetual basis.

If the programming Peters despises was as unpopular as he and PTC believe Americans find it to be, it would fail. But it isn’t failing.

Peters and PTC are free to watch what they want, and there are always programmers that will give them what they want. They are not free to dictate their tastes to the rest of us.

Meanwhile, broadcasters deserve clear and simple rules to follow, particularly with hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential fines and their very license to operate hanging in the balance.