Big Three Fight Indecency
Networks form group to avert new rules
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/8/2005 8:00:00 PM
Three of the Big Four broadcast networks—NBC, Fox and CBS—have funded a new coalition called TV Watch to promote parental content controls as preferable to a government crackdown on indecency.
The organized effort is significant because, like the broadcast industry as a whole, the networks have typically limited their defense of racy programming to the courts and the FCC rather than engaging parents and the general public. But the stakes are now high enough—Viacom paid $3.5 million to settle a spate of indecency cases, and the industry even faces threats of license revocations—that they are willing to risk a possible backlash against their campaign from viewers who think government standards need to be strengthened.
The TV Watch coalition comprises some strange bedfellows: American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform, Center for Creative Voices in Media, The Creative Coalition, Media Freedom Project, The Media Institute, NBC Universal, News Corp., Viacom Inc., the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Web site SpeakSpeak.org. ABC parent Disney is not currently a member of the coalition.
The group will advocate parental controls and personal responsibility over government regulation of broadcast or cable TV and suggests that it will also push against cable regulations like tiering or enforced à la carte, saying they are just another form of government control.
The three major media companies on the list provided the seed money for the effort, although Executive Director Jim Dyke would not give specific amounts.
On the other side of the battle is the Parents Television Council (PTC), which has inundated the FCC with complaints over Janet Jackson and others. PTC President Brent Bozell dismisses the coalition as a network-financed hired gun that he says includes groups—he singles out the American Conservative Union and Americans for Tax Reform—that have “never given a moment's thought to the suffocating sewage coming from the entertainment industry.”
NBC just last week agreed to join the other networks in airing the content “descriptors” that work with the V-chip ratings, having fought against the descriptors for almost eight years.
Separately last week, the cable industry announced an effort to increase the size and frequency of content ratings and to better promote the availability of parental controls.
The group commissioned a poll that found that most people would rather occasionally see something that offends them than have the government “crowding out their personal responsibility and personal choices.”
The poll of 1,002 respondents was conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates and the Luntz Research Companies and has a margin of error of ±3%.
Among its findings:
Eighty-six percent of Americans say more parental involvement is the best way to keep kids from seeing what they shouldn't see. Eleven percent say the government should increase control and enforcement of network-television programming.
By nearly four to one, Americans say more government regulation is not the solution; personal responsibility is.
Ninety-one percent of Americans say that “some people will always be able to find something on the television or radio that offends them. But the sensitivities of a few should not dictate the choices for everyone else.”
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