The following is an op-ed I wrote some time ago that was edited slightly and then published by the Des Moines Register. After turning on the television, which was tuned to MTV, while babysitting my young niece and nephew recently I was reminded how unfortunately relevant this piece still is. The sections which are redacted below are ones that the Register was uncomfortable printing. This perhaps make the point most poignantly.
The following words were spoken on the floor of the U.S senate by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin in the heat of the recent debate on The Fairness Doctrine:
It takes away the authority of the Federal Communications Commission to basically determine that radio and television stations use their Federal licenses in the public interest. What does this mean? It means that the FCC can tell a television station it cannot put on a violent movie early on Saturday morning when kids are tuning into cartoons. It cannot put on something with sexual tones in it at a time when children and family are watching.
Heartwarming isnâ€™t it. Well it seems Mr. Durbin has not taken a look at his local T.V. menu lately. On my T.V. menu, here in Ankeny, Iowa, on the very day that Mr. Durbin spoke the above words, this is a sampling of what I found in the after school time slots of 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.
At 3:00 p.m. on MTV (Direct TV channel 331) we have a program called â€œSexâ€¦With Mom and Dad.â€ On todayâ€™s episode of this show we meet Natasha, a nineteen year old California girl who is self-described as a â€œparty girl who is not afraid to experiment.â€ She tells us that she
********************************************** at fifteen, and is having problems in her relationship with her single fatherâ€”wait for it . . . â€”because she slept with one of his co-workers!
At 4:00 p.m., also on MTV (DTV channel 331), we have a show called â€œRoom Raidersâ€ where another nineteen year old girl is going through the bedrooms of three guys to decide who she is going to go out on a date with. In the first guyâ€™s room we all have a good chuckle when she finds some female oral contraceptives in his night stand. In the second guyâ€™s room she takes a magnifying glass to his bed sheets to find and then comment on the ********************** she sees. Fantastic. So maybe this is not your thing. Never fear you can also turn over to the gay, lesbian and trans-gendered network LOGO (yes, you do likely have this channel-DTV ch.272), whose midday offering is a 12:30 to 4:30 marathon of â€œRuPaulâ€™s Drag Race,â€ in which a variety of gay and trans-gendered contestants vie to see who is the best drag queen.
This is but a small sampling of content that parents must be made aware, I could go on ad nauseam with examples but itâ€™s safe to assume the point has been made. When we dig a little deeper into this we find every one of these shows comes from the same source, a company called Viacom.
Allow me to do the honors and introduce you to one Sumner Redstone. You likely are unfamiliar with him, but if you have any pre-teen or teenage children he has been trying to familiarize himself with them for years.
You see Mr. Redstone is the owner of Viacom, and thus is singularly responsible for a jaw-dropping amount of immoral garbage, not just in the aforementioned time slots but, unmercifully, around the clock. Also disturbing is that along with owning CBS, Paramount Pictures, Blockbuster Video (majority stock holder), MTV, MTV 2, VH1, CMT, and the gay, lesbian, trans-gendered LOGO network, Viacom, ironically, also owns Nickelodeon. Making matters worse is the fact that the stated demographic audience for MTV, MTV 2 and VH1 is 12-34 years of age (yes this is not a misprint, I said 12 years old). This age group is deemed very valuable to marketers because â€“ you guessed it, they are by nature very impressionable and have a longer future consumer life.
Shining the light on Viacom and these types of shows is long overdue, for only with knowledge can we have action. I have a feeling the average American parent has no idea that this is going on, that a broadcaster would or could so brazenly put on shows, squarely aimed at their children, in after school time slots that teachers would get fired for putting on at school. Though it seems hard to believe I assure you that it is in fact occurring. Even if it means recording these shows with your DVR, I encourage parents of any aged children, not to take my word for it but to go to these channels (all of which are provided above) and become aware of this content themselves.
It is not my purpose to blame anyone for ignorance on this matter, and to the contrary maybe we all deserve a break on this one. Looking back at what was on the air when many of us were coming of age is very interesting. Those currently around the age of 70 had â€œThe Whistling Wizardâ€ and â€œHowdy Doody,â€ those around 60 had â€œThe Millionaireâ€ and â€œAmerican Bandstand,â€ 50 or so saw shows like â€œThe Beverly Hillbillyâ€™sâ€ and â€œThe Andy Griffin Show,â€ and if you are between 35-40 you had choices such as â€œThe Love Boatâ€ and â€œThe Jeffersonâ€™s.â€ Quite a far cry from â€œSexâ€¦With Mom and Dad,â€ wouldnâ€™t you say.
Since I suspect most of you parents out there do not condone sexually-charged, immorally bizarre programs being offered up to your children by Viacom and others, and clearly the regulating bodies are not looking out for your â€œpublic interest,â€ I urge all of you to contact your cable providers and, in the least, use your remote controlâ€™s parental blocking features. In many ways this is a unique opportunity. In a climate that too often finds us deeply divided on one political issue or another, this might be about as close to a shot at consensus as we get. Let us not lose the ability to at least stand up, and stand together when we can.
Finally here is a chance to act in the interest of not only our children, but plain common decency. Finally, here is something that we donâ€™t get much of these daysâ€¦something we can agree on.