Friday, April 27, 2007

FCC: Use L3 technology?

According to FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin: 'Something needs to be done.' About what? Well, the FCC believes that violence on TV needs to be regulated. Of course they didn’t define violence or provide any guidelines for what they call "excessively violent" programming. Instead, they argued “that Congress could develop an appropriate definition of excessively violent programming, but such language needs to be narrowly tailored and in conformance with judicial precedent”. In other words, they passed the buck. Read the FCC press release here.

The FCC, which yesterday issued a 22-page report on the subject, said any regulation should also apply to cable not only to broadcast TV. The report also singles out violent commercials, but makes no mention of advertising regulation.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who has pushed for regulation of violent content, immediately climbed his soapbox and praised the report. The American Civil Liberties Union called the FCC recommendations "political pandering." What’s a parent to do?

Should Congress decide what my kids see? I don’t think so. My wife and I do. In fact, my kids (ages 11 and 9) are more circumspect about what they see – immediately covering their eyes when people kiss for example. (They are great kids – what can I say?) What is more important is that they rarely watch TV alone – unless they are watching something innocuous like “Magic School Bus”, and even then we keep an eye on things.

But it goes deeper than that. How do you define or regulate “excessive violence” or for that matter sex on TV? Shouldn’t there be some kind of rating system like movies (G, PG, PG-13, R and X)? Of course I believe it needs to be more granular than that. I would prefer a scale from 1 to 100 or at least A to Z. The numeric scale works better for me because it is easier to comprehend immediately.

But I have an even better idea. Why not rate each scene or even parts of scenes. Then I could watch a movie like say, “Dances with wolves” with my children and skip scenes above a certain rating. It works like this. Let us say most scenes in that movie are rated 40 on the sex scale and 40 on the violence scale. A few scenes are rated higher, for example when the Chief is making whoopee with his wife under the blanket, the scene is rated at 65. I could set my rating preference at sat 45, and those scenes would be skipped. Of course, later, my wife and I could watch the movie again and set our preference at say, 75.

Incidentally, the FCC “believes that the V-chip is of limited effectiveness in protecting children from violent television content”. And also that “further action to enable viewer-initiated blocking of violent television content would serve the government’s interests in protecting the well-being of children and facilitating parental supervision and would be reasonably likely to be upheld as constitutional.” The key words there are “viewer-initiated blocking”. Which is exactly what I am proposing. Sounds like the FCC is calling for the adoption of the L3 format! Woo-hoo!

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