October 5, 1997
This Web Page is Not Government Approved
Oh, dear goodness, Arizona Senator John McCain has made another in his series of desperate bids to control what I watch on TV. Thanks, Senator, but really, Iím a 30 year old male; Iíve made the choice to have a television in my home, Iíve made the choice to pay for electricity to power the television, Iíve made the choice to subscribe to a television programming service (itís called "cable") Ö so why are you so intent on controlling the content of that programming?
Look, itís bad enough that you promised not to introduce legislation aimed at controlling the content of programming. Now, youíre going after NBC because they think your "voluntary" ratings system (which is a dumb idea, too, but thatís a different column) is nothing of the sort; in fact, itís mandatory that all programs must be pre-labeled, and perhaps government-approved, in "McCain-World."
NBC said "Screw that, weíre not going to label our programs TV-M VSLD FV." (Does anyone know what TV-M VSLD FV means? And whatís the difference between L and D?) "You said the rating system was voluntary, and that government would never try to control programming."
McCain said, in effect, "That was then, this is now." Heís now proposing a legislative "remedy" to a problem that exists largely in his and like-thinking minds. So much for your promises. I thought you and your fellow conservatives wanted to get government off our backs? Oh, Iím sorry, thatís a predominantly Republican stance that only applies some of the time, not all of the time. My mistake.
Senator, please, Iím begging you as an American, letís have a little good old fashion freedom here! America is supposed to be the land that prizes free expression and exchange of ideas above all else. Now, I canít get that ugly "TV-PG" bug off my screen. Gah. Maybe when the V-chip comes out, we can get rid of the bug, and let the machines pre-screen out "undesirable" programming. Yes, letís take human reason and decision making out of the process all together. After all, we need to be protected when weíre watching TV!
(If youíve missed the sarcasm above, send me a note, and Iíll try to explain it to you.)
Letís close with some chilling quotes from a recent "Variety" article about the ratings system, shall we?
Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he may introduce legislation targeted at NBC. In a letter Wednesday to McCain, NBC president Bob Wright defended his network, noting twice in one paragraph that the use of any rating system is supposed to be voluntary.
"NBC has voluntarily explored various ratings systems and responded positively to your desire to give parents more information about the content of television programs," Wright wrote.
In addition, Wright reminded McCain that NBC continues to air the age-based ratings code, along with advisories about the violent content of specific shows.
Nevertheless, McCain said Wednesday that NBC's effort are "insufficient." A McCain spokeswoman said the senator will consider moving legislation specifically targeted at NBC.
McCain is considering moving on a proposal by Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) that would effectively ban NBC from airing violent programming during times when kids are most likely to be in the audience.
McCain is urging the Federal Communications Commission to review the applications for license renewal of any broadcaster that refuses to implement the new code. There are few things that local broadcasters loathe more than an FCC audit of their records. The FCC has the power to revoke a license, although it does so only on very rare occasions.
NBC West Coast president Don Ohlmeyer said NBC will not change its stance on the TV content rating system, and said McCain's threats belie the notion that the system is voluntary.
"If you read the threats, how can anybody say this is supposed to be voluntary?" Ohlmeyer asked. "We have to do what we think is right."
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