Open Mike


Just Unplug the TV

Editor: Thanks for the excellent indecency article ("Get Ready to Rumble," 7/5, page 1). I do have one quibble, however. Reporter Bill McConnell writes: "At the heart of the argument are two competing American values, crystallized in a single question: Do the rights of a parent concerned about sexual and violent images on TV trump the constitutionally protected artistic freedom of a producer or actor?"

Naturally, as creative artists, we agree that's a big piece of it. But, as the rest of your article points out, the argument is actually much broader than that. It's really about whether one determined loud, well-organized small minority (which often doesn't even watch the show it's complaining of but responds to a Brent Bozell-generated e-mail urging them to file complaints) can deprive the vast majority of the audience—which does watch or listen to the allegedly offending shows, according to the ratings—of their First Amendment rights to view what they want to view.

In a nutshell, the argument is whether Brent Bozell's people have a right to deprive Howard Stern's people of their right to hear Howard Stern. There's no doubt in our minds that the Supreme Court—indeed, just about any court—will say no. Rather, Brent Bozell's people can turn the channel or unplug the box.

Other than that quibble, great.

Jonathan Rintels, Center for Creative Voices in Media, Washington

(Received via e-mail)

Clean Conscience

Editor: I wanted to respond to John Higgins' recent item on cooking shows and food safety ("Sliced and Diced," 7/5, page 7) and clarify a few points. The story implied that health and safety practices are not a priority for Food

Network, and this is simply not the case. We were disappointed in the lack of attribution and paraphrasing from what was a lengthy conversation John had with Susan Stockton, vice president of culinary production.

When producing our programs, we adhere to established standards, discussing these practices regularly with the producers and chefs involved in Food Network programming. In addition, we regularly inform our viewers of a variety of food safety practices and feature an area on our Web site ( devoted to the subject.

An important distinction is that our programming depicts cooking, dining and entertaining as a fun, shared experience. It would be out of context to present all the safety standards you would expect in restaurants (such as hairnets and gloves) when most of our shows portray cooking at home. It should be noted, as with any instructional or project-based program, not every step of the process is captured in the final, edited episode. But we do our very best to present viewers with the tools necessary to be safe while enjoying cooking at home.

Brooke Johnson, President, Food Network, New York

(Received via e-mail)