Open Mike


Think of the Children

In BROADCASTING CABLE's editorial "Brought to You by the Letter F" (2/2/04), you seem to imply that since our "kids already know these words" and airing them won't "threaten to rend the moral fabric of our nation" that regulator and industry efforts are misplaced.

I would have expected that an editorial board that covers the television business would have an appreciation for the entertainment industry's power to influence our culture and, most important, our nation's children (who need adults to protect them).

I personally think we would all be better off if B&C was not only "committed to the first amendment," but also committed to protecting our children.

William Sellers, Los Angeles

(received via e-mail)

Public Gatekeepers

Pointing fingers at the content of the mass media about acceptability really occurs in front of a mirror.

Mass media is a cultural desensitizing instrument because the audience is not willing to define decency. Nor is government able to accept the mantle of culture guru. They can only exert economic sanctions on a small portion of mass media.

The FCC licenses the local radio and television outlets in each market, but has no control over the multitude of cable and satellite channels pouring into the majority of American homes.

Radio and television programmers have been identified as "gatekeepers," but the courts have made the term "indecent" so ill-defined that they have no yardstick to take the measure.

At one time broadcasters realized the enormity of their role in our culture and decided self-policing was better than government control. The National Association of Broadcasters set up the NAB Code of Good Practices. No station was required to subscribe to its rules, but nearly all did. And the Code set the guidelines of decency in programming and commercial content.

But during the wave of liberalism in the 1970s, the courts axed the code and now the poor broadcast programmer has to wet his or her finger in hopes of determining which way the cultural wind is blowing.

Unless the American public is willing to let their government set gatekeepers' guidelines, then the public
must accept that responsibility. If the public's money supports the words, music, and images seen during the halftime show of the Super Bowl, or the behavior of popular icons during awards shows, or the language and visual content of sitcoms and dramas nightly on television, then there will never be a line drawn in the sand to indicate what is not acceptable.

Paul Oughton, former operations/progrm director, WDKY and former VP of operations for WITN, Lexington, Ky.

(received via e-mail)