Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
 
Go Tell It To The FCC

Scott sent me this deliciously outraged column by the San Francisco Chronicle's Tim Goodman: As was reported by Mediaweek's Todd Shields last week, the much ballyhooed 240,00 complaints of moral outrage that FCC chairman Michael Powell uses as evidence for "a dramatic rise in public concern and outrage about what is being broadcast into their homes," were 99.8% filed by single conservative activist group, the Parent's Television Group. Goodman charges the Internet generation with falling asleep at the wheel and allowing a single advocacy group help an all-to-willing FCC squander its responsibilities and powers in the culture wars:
Now the PTC and Powell have responded to the Mediaweek story by saying,
"Hey, it doesn't matter where these complaints about indecency came from. These are still Americans being outraged."
But you know what? Yes, it does matter.
Because the FCC is supposed to be a sounding board for people who view a TV show, are upset about the content and seek a place to complain outside of the network that aired it. But the process is being hijacked by people who in all likelihood aren't even watching the shows but are responding to a group that
tells them the content is wicked. Meanwhile, thinking people with minds that actually open and function are not sending in e-mails to Powell that say, "I saw
something I didn't think was appropriate for my kids, so I changed the channel.
I handled it. No need to start a holy war about it. I'm looking forward to 'Deadwood' on HBO. You should TiVo it if you haven't already. Anyway, have a nice day."

The fact is the FCC has much more important things to worry about, like the monopolization of radio, censorship and blatant political advocacy by chains of local stations like the Sinclair Group, the cowardly and nonsensical refusal of CBS and NBC to air the United Church of Christs ads about tolerance, or even protecting Astronomy. This is a straw-man that makes Powell look busy and important.

Don't get me wrong. I don't like most TV, and I strongly believe in the right of parents to control what their children see. But I don't believe in the right of someone else's parents controlling what your children see. When I was growing up, the rules were strictly enforced. If I was watching TV, and there was no adult with me (which rarely happened), it had to be on PBS or a very particular set of cartoons. I still strongly remember sneaking away from Mister Rogers to a soap opera after I had caught a glimpse of such things in the guest room TV, and the tragic result: being grounded from TV entirely for weeks. When my He-Man addiction became excessive, I had to extensively plead its educational value just to get a reduced sentence. Even after my parents graduated me to Hitchcock and Satyajit Ray at a rather tender age, they eyed my media consumption like a hawk. If my mother was working or away in the evenings, I rarely dared to slip away to something she wouldn't have approved of: she checked up on me too often, and gave me too many other things to do. There was no TV in my room. The first movie I remember renting was Amadeus--but when I was troubled or confused, my mother was right there next to me to answer my questions. Same with the third or fourth movie I recall going to the theaters for: The Last Emeperor. Desperate Housewives would never have been an issue--Sunday is a school night!

And you know what? I deeply appreciate that. I read a lot, and I watched a lot of amazing films as a child. Moreover, when I grew up some, I got to watch wonderful, dark, tales for grown-ups, like Taggart and Touching Evil with my mom, and I'm glad they were there for us to watch together. That's because my mom took the responsibility to parent me, instead of expecting a government body to do the job for her. You can always change the channel, switch the signal off and control the supply of video tapes and DVDs, switch the TV off, even get rid of it altogether. Please tell FCC Chair Michael Powell that he has better things to worry about, because most Americans are capable of better parenting skills than he wants to give them credit for. You can email him here, and you can write to him here: FCC, 445 12th Street, SW Washington, D.C. 20554. Pass it on!
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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