Skip to main content

Big Three Fight Indecency

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

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
, NBC Universal,
News Corp., Viacom Inc., the
U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Web site 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
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
  • 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.”