The FCC Took My Cable Away

The Federal Communications Commission has finally released its long-awaited, much-anticipated report of "Violent Television Programming and Its Impact on Children."

It's a lousy document that, to the surprise of nobody who follows this kind of stuff, concludes that we need more content regulation of violent images that are transmitted over broadcast and cable TV (indeed, the document pushes to expand content regulation to cable and satellite, which are currently outside the purview of the FCC):

Given the totality of the record before us, we agree with the view of the Surgeon General that:  "a diverse body of research provides strong evidence that exposure to violence in the media can increase children's aggressive behavior in the short term."  At the same time, we do recognize that "many questions remain regarding the short- and long-term effects of media violence, especially on violent behavior." We note that a significant number of health professionals, parents and members of the general public are concerned about television violence and its effects on children....

Congress could implement a time channeling solution, as discussed above, and/or mandate some other form of consumer choice in obtaining video programming, such as the provision by MVPDs [multichannel video programming providers] of video channels provided on family tiers or on an a la carte basis (e.g., channel blocking and reimbursement).

Got that? The research on the link between violent TV and behavior in children is not decisive ("many questions remain"), but because enough people complain about the "problem" and in spite of an ever-increasing amount of viewer controls available to parents (the most simple being the on/off switch, of course),  Congress should limit what can be on when (time channeling) and how entertainment providers offer up stuff to viewers. Because, you know, if we don't, violent juvenile crime rates among kids will plummet even more.

The whole report is here (scroll down).

If you don't have the time, or inclination, or wrought-iron stomach to scan a document dedicated to reducing the freedom of expression on the small screen, skip to the statements of the FCC's commissioners approving the findings of this colossal waste of time and energy.

Here's FCC chairman Kevin Martin:

Parents need more tools to protect children from excessively violent programming. And, as the Commission finds today, they need tools that address the violent programming on all platforms-broadcast, cable and satellite....

No mission creep there! Despite the fact that people pay for cable and satellite and can basically block whatever they want, either through economic choice, a set-top box, or via the TV set itself (all of which are equipped with V-Chips or even cruder channel controls), parents need the tools that the FCC wants to give them.

Here's commissioner Michael Kopps:

Television is perhaps the most powerful force at work in the world today. When used for good, it can enlighten minds, convey powerful ideas, educate, and lay the foundation for human development.  But when it is used to mislead, misrepresent and distort, it can - it does - inflict lasting harm.  Most of the evidence amassed over the past half century indicates a relationship between gratuitous violence and harmful effects - personal, psychological and social.  While research continues on how children are affected by what they watch, it seems close to indisputable that there are indeed unfortunate and negative outgrowths from the spreading virus of broadcast violence.

Close to indisputable! Good enough for government work!

Here's Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate:

Many of us, as parents, have witnessed our children acting out a fighting scene from an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, been shocked by our children's callousness towards violence, or been awakened by a frightened child climbing into bed after having a nightmare because of something they saw on television.

Even though Corey Feldman is no longer one of the TMNT, TV can still cause nightmares. Just like books!

Here's Commissioner Robert M. McDowell:

As the father of three young children, I am deeply concerned about the coarsening of television content and the effects of television violence on children.  As a society, we should do all that the law allows to help shield our children from harmful television content.

Look, I'm the father of two children (sons, one of whom is still going through something of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle). And I've got to say that I'm jealous that what my kids have at their fingertips is not a coarse culture (though there's plenty of that out there) but an incredibly rich kid-centered culture that includes tons of clever programming on Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Noggin, Sprout, and so much more. And since when is it the responsibility of the world--as opposed me--to protect my kids from TV?

And here's Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein, the only member of the FCC who didn't fully back the back the report (he thought it didn't talk enough about consumer viewing tools):

Particularly in light of the spasm of unconscionable violence at Virginia Tech, but just as importantly in light of the excessive violent crime that daily afflicts our nation, there is a basis for appropriate federal action to curb violence in the media.

It's not just kids who are committing fewer violent crimes (see above), it's everyone in the U.S. So if that's your measure, bring on TV violence. If there's little doubt that TV over the past decade has gotten "coarser" and more violent, there's equally little doubt that the US has become less violent a place to live.

But more to the point: We live in an age of proliferating culture, where at long last we're getting increasingly free to produce and consume more culture more on our own terms (and we live in a society that is objectively less violent than it was in recent memory). And the freaking FCC is talking about extending its purview and reducing the freedom of consumers and entertainment providers?

Oy, talk about rotten counter-programming! Censorship in an age of free expression!

Look for a more analytic piece on the main part of Reason Online tomorrow.

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  • Fluffy||

    The not-so-secret source of this push isn't even the Christos in the Bush administration - it's the traditional broadcast networks.

    They want cable to operate under the same rules as broadcast because cable has been leeching eyeballs from broadcast for decades, and seems poised to finally eradicate the concept of mass appeal broadcast content altogether.

    The networks assume that if Comedy Central and FX and the rest become subject to the FCC, they won't have a programming advantage over the networks any more.

    Fuck the networks. Let them die.

  • Sarcastic Asshole||

    You'd think the government would encourage people to use the on/off switch to turn the TV off so that the populace would reduce its energy consumption. We need a green FCC!

  • Russ 2000||

    Congress could implement a time channeling solution

    Time channeling? For fuck's sake, people are increasingly time-shifting their viewing! Outside of sporting events, who the hell even watches a TV show "when it's on" anymore. Children don't even do that!

  • ||

    Why not just make it illegal for anyone to have cable/satellite if they have kids under age 18 living in the house?

  • ||

    Particularly in light of the spasm of unconscionable violence at Virginia Tech...

    Um-- Adelstein isn't seriously blaming Cho's actions on watching cable TV, right? The Sopranos gave him violent mental illness?

    I thought it was supposed to be from playing Grand Theft Auto.

  • ||

    Interesting logic. Let me try:
    The rise in complaints about TV content by Family First and others corresponds to the increased alarmism out meth.
    Hence: complaining about TV causes meth addiction.

    If anyone tries to hobble Disney and Viacom's cable activities there will be assassinations. You don't fuck with the cash flow.

  • ||

    "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech ... "

    Unless, you know, it's on TV and some kids might see it.

    Won't somebody please think of the children?!

  • UCrawford||

    The FCC pushes crap like this because their leader is too stupid to understand that 99% of the "outrage" against violence on TV comes from one particular group:

    http://www.parentstv.org/

    And here's a story about their tactics:

    http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20041207-4442.html

    If I got overwhelming amounts of spam from one particular group of morons, I suppose I might think that a lot of people supported their views too...assuming I was an idiot who didn't know anything about computers.

    -UC

  • ||

    Your government only want to help you, people. Hell, I didn't know until I was 40 that you really couldn't drop anvils on people's heads (a la Wyle E. Coyote) without any negative permanent injuries. Who da thunk?
    And I didn't know learn that there really isn't such think as a BFG 4000 until I talked to a Federal agent.

  • ||

    "mandate some other form of consumer choice"

    Anybody else have a problem with that statement?

  • ||

    The FCC pushes crap like this because their leader is too stupid to understand that 99% of the "outrage" against violence on TV comes from one particular group

    Are you claiming their crap would be more legitimate if it was pushed by a broader range of constituents? crap is crap

    You think they aren't aware of this? It's very old news. They simply have their own agenda, and use whatever they can to justify it to the public.

  • UCrawford||

    Nope, their argument is wrong and idiotic no matter how many people get behind it. The fact that it's one relatively insignificant part of the overall American population who's pushing to force their choices on everyone else does, however, make their argument all the more pathetic.

  • ||

    Maybe there's something to this. I've tried most of what I've seen in porn videos. Overall, its worked out pretty well for me.

  • ||

    "Why not just make it illegal for anyone to have cable/satellite if they have kids under age 18 living in the house?"

    Please don't give them ideas!

  • ||

    I almost wish Howard Stern was still on terrestrial radio just so he could reap the benefits of an FCC without Michael Powell. Powell wasn't perfect, but Kevin Martin is a worthless piece of shit who only got on the FCC because his nose was buried up Bush's ass.

  • ||

    Hey Nick, didn't Joey Ramone also encourage us to beat on the brat with a baseball bat?

    The FCC just has to do something about this vile rock n roll!

    Hell, I smashed twelve of my schoolmates heads in before I realized I was killin' 'em!

    The FCC is as meaningless as TV in the new century.

  • VM||

    Hi cecil!

    hier is the FCC song from Family Guy. Enjoy!

  • tlxtftrf||

    Watching Fox News this morning I saw them bring on an "expert" in media violence who proceeded to state that:

    "There is no debate about the fact that violent television causes violence among children, there is a consensus in the sociological, psychiatric, and scientific community on this issue."

    The host, one that has before questioned the scientific consensus on global warming, had on such skepticism for this gentleman...shocking.

    I also enjoyed the irony and seeming appropriateness of the expert separating psychiatry and sociology from science. I wholeheartedly agree.

    Regardless of the merits or non-merits of any scientific argument two red flags are raised for me when any study like this comes out. First of all, how can congress take seriously any study where the entity responsible for the research is the same entity that stands to benefit from it; it is like asking the cigarette companies whether smoking increases the risk of cancer and lung disease, off course they'll come to a self serving conclusion. Secondly, enough with this consensus crap. The basis for any scientific or rational thought is skepticism and the dialectal method. To say that there is not even a question in your mind about whether something is scientifically true shows a complete lack of any thought or empirical observation only to base your conclusions on the basis that you are some immutable being. Its been 400 years (roughly) since Newton and physicists still can't agree on the exact nature of gravity, how the hell can we know with no doubt the cause of violence in our youth is television? We can't, it is (admittedly by even the FCC) bullshit.

    Irregardless, television censorship is one thing that social conservatives and liberals agree on these days. That in and of itself is a reason to oppose it for me. Whenever two wingnuts agree on anything, it is probably retarded.

    One of the reasons recommendations like this occur, however, is partially due to the crowding out effect the government is having on public morality. Parents don't seem to see the same obligation to their children that they used to because so many rely on the law as the source of morality. If the government doesn't turn the tv off for them, there is a sizable segment of the population which is too negligent/stupid/nanny state asshole to do it themselves.

  • ||

    Hey-Ya VM, and all the faithful.

    I have been busy getting my law license for a few months...

    Is that fucking idiot John gone?

  • ||

    IRREGARDLESS is not a word.

    IRRESPECTIVE of your error, I agree with the post.

    Once the NYT editors and any christian whack-job agree on anything, I am very leery.

  • ||

    ummm,
    The chart shows less violent crime?
    So the violence on t.v. actually showed us the consequences of bad behaviour so we do bad things less? So we actually need more violence on the tube so crime will go down even more right?
    TMNT!!!

  • tlxtftrf||

    cecil-

    Well it should be...thanks for the correction
    from now on irregardless =>Regardless

  • pledgepolish55||

    I'm just waiting till they try to mess with the video games.

    That is the day that my generation will awaken and make the '60s look like a mild disagreement.

  • VM||

    Cecil! bravo! congratulations on the license (is that the same as "passing the bar"?)

    and yes, the "meletary lawyer" is still around.

    congratulations, again!

  • Rhywun||

    Is it just me or wasn't broadcast television far more violent in the 80's than it is now? Today's crime dramas look like Barney compared to, say, Miami Vice.

  • ||

    Man, Gillespie. That blog post was longer than your last article.

    For a magazine called Reason, you guys sure get worked up about light bulbs and cable.

  • ||

    I've thought about the children. Given that one has just tangled my wife's hair in such a knot that the tangling comb cannot be removed after an hour (they're at her office, not here where I can rescue her), my question to you is what have the children done for me?

  • ||

    Don't worry ProL. They and a few other kids will all be working to support you during your retirement in not too long.

  • ||

    Crimethink's 'batin' trollin'!

  • ||

    This is it Nick. Your time to stand up, show that your a man.
    You know what to do.
    Hit the keys, ring the bell and call out the libertarian militia and sick'em on the FCC NOW NICK NOWWWWW!!!!!

  • ||

    As a worker in an organization that does research under contract to the federal government, I'd say that despite any lip service given to the possibility that violence on TV does not substantially or significantly contribute to violence in society, the conclusions of this study were largely foregone.

    So here's an anecdote that I think is suggestive: when we write reports for federal agencies, we have to treat the words "federal" and "state" as proper nouns.

  • ||

    crimethink,

    I don't believe it. First, I think they're trying to kill me. Second, I'm not a Boomer, so the money will be all gone. Third, I think we're finally going to be the generation that's right when we think there's something terribly wrong with these kids.

  • violent_k||

    For a magazine called Reason,...

    Thank you. I was getting a bit parched.

  • VM||

    *pours a generous portion to Violent_k (while giving a shout out to lakeside 440)

    (heh, Media, heh!)

  • violent_k||

    VM,
    I'd like a Foster's* if you have it.

    *The official social lubricant of Formula 1

  • ||

    I'm not a Boomer, so the money will be all gone.

    Don't worry, it's being kept safe in the Social Security slush fund trust fund.

  • ||

    Crimethink's 'batin' trollin'!

    What is this "batin" you refer to? It isn't this, is it?

  • ||

    Oh, Social Security will save me? Thank God. Libertarians have led me astray again. I'll stop saving for retirement now and allow the government to give me aid and comfort in my old age.

  • Thuglife||

    After 30 college students cowered while some nutcase shot them down, I would think we need MORE aggression in children.

  • ed||

    I've got a big bag of V-Chips left over from the 90s. Never even opened! Anybody want 'em?

  • Chucklehead||

    Reports like this make me so angry that I feel like jackin' a car and killing some whores.

    Oh wait, wrong media.

    ... I feel like torturing some terrorist suspects.

  • ||

    This is an amazing post by Nick - talk about a guy protesting too much about such a "lousy document".

    Even better is the part where he reveals that he's the father of two children and will continue the good fight to make sure his kids are not denied the right to watch trash on TV.

    Another entry into the "why libertarians are not taken seriously" file.

  • ||

    Parents need more tools to protect children from excessively violent programming.

    Hey, what the fug!? We were told the V-Chip would be the end of all this violence-y-ness on teh telly. Are you trying to tell me my guvmint lied to me?

    Those farging bastiges!

    Thank god they'll get it right this time.

  • ||

    I've got a big bag of V-Chips left over from the 90s. Never even opened! Anybody want 'em?

    They'll taste like shit without the right salsa. Whatcha usin'?

  • Guy Montag||

    All of this V-Chip carping without a single mention of it's champion, Albert Gore Jr? You know, inventor of the interweb and savior of the earth Al Gore? Yea, that Al gore!

    Mewonders, if he could not 'fix' television even by controlling eevery single one of them, how is he going to 'fix' the earth even if he and Tipper control the USA in 2 years?

  • Guy Montag||

    Even better is the part where he reveals that he's the father of two children and will continue the good fight to make sure his kids are not denied the right to watch trash on TV.

    Another entry into the "why libertarians are not taken seriously" file.


    Another reminder as to why I usually ignore you.

    My son is now 23 and I used the same general idea that Nick alludes to here. I controlled what he watched when he was with me and set examples of what was acceptable in our home and how he should act around others.

    Something I did, but not mentioned by Nick, was told hime when he could do certain things like "The Howard Stern Show will be okay when you are 16, but you are just 12 now, so you have to wait." Same with interweb pr0n. And I enforced it too.

    Perhaps when he completes law school, close to three years from now (if he doesn't pull a Bailey) he can work to prevent nanny-staters like you from gumming up society.

  • ||

    Another entry into the "why libertarians are not taken seriously" file.

    You don't seriously expect me to start drinking at 9 in the morning, do you?

  • VM||

    JW -

    You fell for the schtick from the Roman Maroni V-Chip company. He made you an offer, or you'd find your bells in a sling.

  • ||

    VM--I would never try to bullshtein Roman. He call me icehole, I just ned yes.

  • VM||

    NO MORE NODDING!

  • LarryA||

    Parents need more tools to protect children from excessively violent programming.

    How come "more tools" always seems to equal "fewer choices?"

    it seems close to indisputable that there are indeed unfortunate and negative outgrowths from the spreading virus of broadcast violence.

    Cable and satellite are not "broadcast." The only reason they can have such an "indisputable" "outgrowth" and be a "spreading virus" is because, except for a tiny minority of nannys they are overwhelmingly popular enough for people to choose to pay extra for them.

    Personally, I think we should go back to the good old days, when we took the kids down to the Tower of London to watch unpopular politicians get hung drawn and quartered.

  • Chris Monnier||

    Great post. I assume the title alludes to the Ramones' "KKK Took My Baby Away." The post could have been titled, "FCC Took My Baby Away," as what the FCC is calling for is basically a usurpation of responsibility from the parents to the government.

    I don't yet have kids, but when I do I want to be responsible for what they see. I don't need or want the government to essentially pre-screen content for me.

  • ||

    Something I did, but not mentioned by Nick, was told hime when he could do certain things like "The Howard Stern Show will be okay when you are 16, but you are just 12 now, so you have to wait." Same with interweb pr0n. And I enforced it too.

    I hate to be the one who tells you this, but he was just watching the forbidden stuff at his friends' houses.

    That's the flaw with the "it's the parent's responsibility" argument. Parents can't spend all their time monitoring their kids' viewing habits.

  • ||

    That's the flaw with the "it's the parent's responsibility" argument. Parents can't spend all their time monitoring their kids' viewing habits.

    Sure we can. If my kids ever watch something verbotten somewhere else, they soon begin to quote from the show or act it out.

    I then ask them where they saw it and ever so intent to make sure someone else gets the blame, they always rat out their friends. Just like I taught them!

    I then have a heart-to-heart with the parents of the other and if we don't agree, well guess who's not going over there any more.

    Just because your parents failed miserably Dan, jeez....

  • Guy Montag||

    I hate to be the one who tells you this, but he was just watching the forbidden stuff at his friends' houses.

    He was doing at his mother's house too. That's why I used the wording that I did. At least he learned what was acceptable in my house and that acceptibility was not alien to him when he went other places.

    As stated above, just because you turned out to be the way you are does not mean that all parents are as worthless as yours.

  • ||

    The behavioral modification factor is taking place at a strident pace. The controlling factors are accelerated at full speed. And it seems to be the speed at which one would believe the end is near.
    In six years this country has been flipped upside down. Only a change can make sense of it
    .........

  • «—Ū®Āņŭ§—»||

    I always become suspicious when a fascist uses the phrase "protect children," and that suspicion is always justified. Protecting children has been used as a rationalization for any fantastic plan, whether it has anything to do with children or not, and as such it seems to work like a charm. I theorize it comes from the way baby boomers were raised, by parents who hated them. My folks hated us, and all my friends' parents hated them. Our parents had a way to "protect children." They told us, "if you get in a car with a stranger, you'll never be seen again. And we won't even bother to look for you, because we'll know you were stupid and are dead and buried out in the woods somewhere. Drop dead and go to hell." To this day I won't accept a ride from a stranger. In an effort to be better than that, many people have developed an unthinking case of Blind Child Protectionist Syndrome. It's too wussed out. These bleeding hearts need to grow up. Granted, children should learn there are dangers in the world and things that will waste their time, but that freedom of speech is absolutely sacred is a far more important lesson.

  • Velyx||

    Sorry but the best way to stop kids from watching violent shows is to just not buy a T.V.. There's no reason to make everyone else suffer because someone is to lazy to moniter what there kids are watching.

    "Many of us, as parents, have witnessed our children acting out a fighting scene from an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, been shocked by our children's callousness towards violence, or been awakened by a frightened child climbing into bed after having a nightmare because of something they saw on television."

    I'm going to go out on a limb and say she doesn't own a computer. Wonder how long till the internet is on these parents hit-list.

  • LarryA||

    Many of us, as parents, have witnessed our children acting out a fighting scene from an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, been shocked by our children's callousness towards violence, or been awakened by a frightened child climbing into bed after having a nightmare because of something they saw on television.

    Reminds me of the parents I knew back in the 80s who "childproofed" their home to the point that their adorable offspring spent his first three years with nary a booboo nor an ouchie.

    Then he ventured outside.

    Who knew? The world is full of stuff to bump into. Lots of things it hurts to stick fingers in. Sometimes you end up leaking this funny red stuff. It helps if you have a clue how to handle trauma.

    Children are born callous about violence. Watch one play with a puppy. They have to experience the consequences and learn the other solutions to conflict.

    Nightmares are nature's way to prepare children to handle the real monsters of the world.

  • ||

    @'«—Ū®Āņŭ§—»':
    "My folks hated us, and all my friends' parents hated them. Our parents had a way to "protect children." They told us, "if you get in a car with a stranger, you'll never be seen again. And we won't even bother to look for you, because we'll know you were stupid and are dead and buried out in the woods somewhere. Drop dead and go to hell."

    Hehe, if I was you, I would have arranged for the Mafia to have those folks all kidnapped and tortured somewhere.............they'd change their tunes right quick ;-).

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