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PTC Slams Violence on TV; Watches it Anyway

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Variety is reporting that the biggest losers in the universe are attacking the television industry for a supposed increase in violence. Says the report, "a top federal regulator has joined a call for broadcasters to voluntarily reduce the amount of blood and guts or face the possibility of legislation." I personally don't find such a threat realistic, as it would represent an unconstitutional restraint of free speech. The government gets to regulate speech that is obscene, but violence typically doesn't fall under their purview. Nudity yes, foul language yes, violence not so much.

I have two problems with the PTC and what they are doing. The first is that the Janet Jackson nipple scandal during a Super Bowl half-time show wasn't really a scandal at all. Just a year or two ago it was found that over 98% of the complaints the FCC received about the incident were generated by the PTC, with only a tiny minority being legitimate complaints filed by the public. The only place it was a scandal were in the minds of the PTC, Republican FCC commissioners, and the media.

The second problem relates to the PTC's inability to change the channel. There is a legitimate state interest in regulating the public airwaves, but it's hands off when it comes to censorship and personal tastes. There's a very simple way to tell the difference between a liberal, and a conservative of the PTC's nature -- and I've always believed this is true -- conservatives who object to what they see on television will complain the loudest and demand it be taken off the air; liberals on the other hand will simply change the channel.

The PTC's report was subjective and at times entirely stupid.

According to a PTC official, a violent act was defined as at least a fist fight, counted as one instance no matter how long it lasted. But if the fight escalated into use of a weapon, it was counted as two instances.

I suppose if I also called someone an ass while beating them with a pipe, that would count as three instances. How inane. But here is this gem.

Peacock was tagged for "the biggest increase in violent content -- 635% -- during the 10:00 hour," from two instances per hour in 1998 to almost 15 in 2005-06.

I don't know what the hell the PTC is tuned to during the ten'o'clock hour, but I promise you it isn't NBC. 10PM is when Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip airs, and if there are so much as two instances of violence in the entire first season, I'll eat crow.

Winter said the V-chip was essentially ineffective.

The v-chip is a product of the Clinton era of governing when Congress mandated that a new electronic chip be included with every new TV set above a given size, and later all sets, that allowed parents to set limits on what could be watched based on television ratings. Today, all TVs have them, and all the networks broadcast information that allow the sets to know about sex and violence. Any parent who wants to restrict what kind of programming their kids get to watch can mandate those changes within the television set thanks to the v-chip.

Personally I think the idea is lame because the entire reason government is always intruding into our lives is because parents don't have the time or interest in actually doing the work necessary to protect their families. If the v-chip hasn't been effective, it's because parents aren't using it, not because it doesn't work. In reality it works exactly as it was designed to.

Parents were given the power to keep their kids from the bad stuff and the PTC's response to parents not using the tools they were given is to remove such choices from people and place that responsibility with Congress. That is unacceptable. No government will take those kinds of decisions from me while I'm still alive. Believe me when I say this is not a fight the PTC wants. These are the kinds of things I would burn down the world over.

If there is a rise in violence on television as the PTC thinks there is, then I postulate that it is because violence is what people want to see on television. It's just another part of entertainment, and the only people who should be watching television at 10PM are adults anyway, not kids. If there are kids watching this stuff that late at night, then the problem isn't too much violence on TV and the solution isn't less violence on TV; it's parents who need to learn how to put their damn kids in bed so I can enjoy some 24 without having the PTC on my ass.

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The text of this article is Copyright © 2006,2007 Paul William Tenny. All rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Attribution by: full name and original URL. Comments are copyrighted by their authors and are not subject to the Creative Commons license of the article itself.