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Remarks of Tim Winter Regarding PTC's Zogby-Commissioned Questions

March 15, 2007

 

A little over one year ago, the Senate Commerce Committee held hearings which dealt with the issue of obscene and indecent material on broadcast and advertiser-supported basic cable television.

 

Following on the heels of the now-infamous Super Bowl halftime show, and coupled with profanity-laced awards shows, a teen orgy on primetime broadcast network television, and multi-million dollar FCC consent decrees, the industry knew it had to do something and it had to do it fast. So they enlisted the assistance of the single most powerful, well-known, highly-respected power-broker, Jack Valenti, to come up with a solution which would get the government off its back. This "solution," and I use the term loosely, was a $300 million campaign to educate parents and promote the so-called technical solutions to obscene and indecent material that was being delivered into every home in the country on a daily and nightly basis. The industry called its campaign the TV Boss.

 

I would like to frame this around one central question: What was the goal of the TV Boss campaign? Again, what was its goal? If the goal was to increase awareness and usage of the v-chip, then the campaign has failed, and someone, somewhere, deserves a $550 million refund. If the goal was not to increase awareness and usage of the v-chip, then what was the goal? The only other goal I can discern is that the TV Boss campaign was designed solely to placate the Congress and to deflect any further attention to the growing tide of graphic sex, violence and profanity during the hours when children are watching television.

 

Based on polling data we received from Zogby, the only possible goal of TV Boss was to placate the Congress; to make sure a modest investment – hardly any of which was likely an out-of-pocket cost – would ensure a swift return to "business as usual" accompanied by a continued and complete disregard for the broadcast indecency laws.

 

At the outset of the TV Boss campaign, the PTC commissioned Zogby International to include a few questions in one of their regular national omnibus surveys. We asked three questions about TV content. And unlike other industry-funded polls which were clearly designed to illicit only a desired result, we asked our questions as clearly and objectively as we could, and we provide the specific questions for you in order to offer complete transparency.

 

Let me tell you briefly what the results showed us. And may I say, the results surprised even us.

 

Six months ago – in September – at the outset of the TV Boss campaign, Americans were asked if they agreed or disagreed that there is too much sex, violence and course language on television. Eighty percent (80%) agreed. We asked the very same question just a few days ago, and 79% agreed. The needle has barely moved.

 

The second question we asked was about the v-chip and cable box parental controls. We asked Americans how many times they had used those blocking devices in the past week. In September, 87% said they had not used them at all. This month 88% said they had not used them at all. Not only did the percentage of technology users go down, but those who used the blocking devices frequently went down by an even greater margin.

 

The third question asked Americans to identify what the TV ratings "descriptors" were. The descriptors are the letters D, L, S, and V, that appear next to the posted TV rating. Please understand that this was a multiple-choice question, with only four (4) potential answers, only one of which was correct. And to employ the old adage about 100 trained monkeys, 25% should have answered correctly even if they were just guessing. Last September only seven percent (7%) could correctly answer the question, meaning that 93% could not. And this month only 8% could answer correctly, meaning 92% could not.

 

In April of 2005, nearly two years ago, the industry proudly announced that it would spend $250 million to promote the v-chip and channel blocking technologies. And nearly two years ago the PTC called the campaign "an industry sham" that had the sole purpose of shirking responsibility for its product.

 

In April of 2006, nearly one year ago, the industry announced it would launch another v-chip and blocking technology campaign, this time investing $300 million. And nearly one year ago the PTC called the campaign "useless." We called it a PR stunt which was intended only to dodge responsibility for their product.

 

And here we are again today, six months after the TV Boss campaign began. Mr. Valenti promised the Congress a progress report in March. Obviously we will be interested to see what the industry spin-meisters can do to put lipstick on this pig. But in the meantime, we offer this Zogby data to the Congress, to the FCC, to the industry and, most importantly, to the public.

 

And again, what was the industry's goal when it decided to spend $300 million on the TV Boss? Did anyone truly believe that the industry would make such an investment to actually encourage its viewers not to watch its programs? If you answered ‘yes' then I've got a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.

 

The two-pronged solution is simple. First, if broadcasters want to use the public airwaves – public property – to deliver their product to every home in the country for free, then they must abide by the indecency law as prescribed by Congress, affirmed by the Supreme Court and enforced by the FCC. And second, give parents and families the ultimate in parental control and let them select and pay for only the cable networks they want coming into their homes.

 

Parents don't need any more lectures from the industry.  Rather, the industry needs to clean up its act.  Consumers and Congress should not be fooled when the fox once again asks us to trust it to guard the henhouse.

 

To schedule an interview with a PTC representative, please contact Kelly Oliver (ext. 140) or Megan Franko (ext. 148) at (703) 683-5004.


The Parents Television Council™ (www.parentstv.org®) is a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment. It was founded in 1995 to ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media. This national grassroots organization has more than 1.3 million members across the United States, and works with television producers, broadcasters, networks and sponsors in an effort to stem the flow of harmful and negative messages targeted to children. The PTC also works with elected and appointed government officials to enforce broadcast decency standards. Most importantly, the PTC produces critical research and publications documenting the dramatic increase in sex, violence and profanity in entertainment. This information is provided free of charge so parents can make informed viewing choices for their own families.

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