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January 27, 2005

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if Janet Jackson had not experienced her wardrobe malfunction during last year’s Super Bowl? Most everyday viewers wouldn’t even remember the football championship if the famous pop star had not “accidentally” had her breast exposed to millions of viewers during the halftime show, “Chestgate” as the infamous incident later became better known as. But the mili-second of nudity did more than send the day down in history. When Justin Timberlake tore away that little piece of costume, little did he know he would be setting the wheels of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rolling. Ever since the Super Bowl, the FCC has been making highly publicized crack downs on indecency on America’s airways.

As a father of three children, whom seem to become glued to any television set within a quarter mile, I must say I appreciate concerns of parents and other community leaders that are voicing their distress regarding conditions of programming that continues to push the limits of virtue and respectability.

At the same time I have to admit that I still believe in the freedom of choice. While I don’t think much of the programming on TV today has any place in a child’s repertoire, I don’t believe it’s my place as a parent to say that consenting adults should not be allowed to view such programming.

That’s why I was pleased to see the FCC dismiss a number of complaints recently filed by the Parents Television Council.

I found it quite amusing to see the PTC spokesperson saying “The FCC is only deeming everything indecent that is way over the top. We know of no community in America where words like ‘@#$%’ and ‘@#$%head’ would be considered decent or commonfare language.”

Doesn’t she realize she uttered the same words she is chastizing the TV stations for not censoring? It reminds me of when my middle daughter comes running to me to tattle on her older sister, shouting out “Abi just said @#$%, and @#$% is a bad word. We are not supposed to say @#$%, and Abi just said @#$%. Are you going to punish Abi for saying @#$%?”

While I understand the PTC objections, and agree there’s plenty on TV that kids should not be subjected to, I feel it is our responsibility to police what our children watch. It’s too easy to simply turn the TV on to keep the kids entertained while you do your own thing.

Blaming the networks for allowing your kids to see “sexual suggestions” aired in their programming is sort of like blaming the electric company when your child sticks his or her finger in the socket and gets shocked.

Nowhere does it say that you have to let your kids watch TV. Okay, that’s a little harsh and would definitely cause a riot at my house. So we are forced to do the next best thing, put a little effort into policing what the kids view.

Technology is a wonderful thing these days. On the cable and dish programs, there’s a little function that allows one to lock out certain channels, or even prevent viewing of programs that aren’t rated according to your personal preferences. Okay, so you have to be smart enough to program the remote control (which I’m not – I called and got technical support) but it’s another tool to police what the kids have access to when you can’t do it personally.

Granted this is easier for me, as my kids, ages five, three and 1 ½ aren’t too interested in anything but cartoons, so it’s easier for me to control what they watch. Maybe I’ll change my tune in a few years when I hear one of my daughters repeat the curse words or the explicit language she heard on last night’s sitcom.


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