On Miley, Parents and Responsibility

Written by PTC | Published July 3, 2014

Earlier this week, the PTC encouraged NBC to edit or not air altogether a Miley Cyrus concert special set to air this coming Sunday evening. To be sure, Cyrus has become a problematic figure for parents of teens who may have grown up on Miley’s “Hannah Montana” character and may not realize just how raunchy her live shows can be. In fact, I think PTC President Tim Winter put it best here:
“Miley Cyrus built her career on the backs of teens, ‘tweens’ and their parents. But the content of her Bangerz Tour is wildly inappropriate for children and families, and NBC knows it. Given that her concert performances have been sexually graphic, laced with profanity and celebrating illegal drug use, NBC should reconsider its decision to air this program on the publicly owned airwaves altogether. But if NBC does air the program, then the network has an affirmative obligation not to air it during a time when children are likely to be in the audience, and they must rate the program TV-MA.”
However, the issue here is not Miley Cyrus. She is perfectly free to perform in essentially whatever manner she sees fit and people are perfectly free to buy tickets to watch her performances. The issue here in NBC and what is appropriate to be broadcast into virtually every living room in the country via the public airwaves. Simply put, the type of material typically performed at a Cyrus concert is not. There has been a good bit of response to our admonition, and I’m glad that our position on this has sparked a larger public dialogue. One of particular note was posted over at SheKnows, a prominent women’s online lifestyle publication. I’m very pleased that they agreed with much of our take on the situation, even going so far as to say they won’t be watching the program. However, they arrive at a few false conclusions:
If NBC airs the program, isn't it our "affirmative obligation" as parents to ensure our children aren't watching? A few easy alternatives that come to mind are, as I mentioned earlier, changing the channel. Or, I don't know, turning the TV off altogether. It's not as though NBC is forcing anyone to watch. But even so, the argument there would likely be that the network is preying on the impressionable nature and questionable proclivities of tween and teen fans. But if you don't think Miley Cyrus is appropriate for your kids to watch (much less to emulate) shouldn't that be a conversation that starts at home?
The answer to these rhetorical questions is yes! Of course parents are always the first and last line of defense when protecting their own kids from media content they find offensive, but that does not absolve networks of their mutual responsibility for the material that they produce and distribute. In fact, that is even more true of broadcasters who act with a free license to use the publicly owned airwaves. Moreover, if the rating on any given program is inaccurate, even the most diligent families can’t rely on the very ratings system offered by the industry as a “solution.” That’s why it’s essential for NBC to act responsibly in this case, to respect its own audience and to rate this and every other show consistently and accurately. Or not air something at all.

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