Sense or censorship?

February 19, 2008
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“It is important for those in the industry to show some thought about who they are marketing some of these programs to.... I'm concerned about sex, but I'm also concerned [about] some of the violent slasher-horror films that come out.... I don't want my 6-year-old or 9-year-old seeing that trailer while she's watching 'American Idol'.''

So said Sen. Barack Obama in a speech in Hollywood. [see commentary here.

Regardless of your politics, it’s difficult to argue with his point.

You don’t offer lap dances at Applebee’s and you don’t show coming attractions for the next “Saw” movie at Chuck E. Cheese’s.

So why should sex-joke-heavy promos for snarky sitcoms air during “Deal or No Deal”? And I’m sure I’m not the only one uncomfortable when explicit erectile dysfunction ads, er, pop up  while you’re watching a Sunday afternoon football game with your kids (okay, people who know me know that I rarely watch a Sunday afternoon football game, but you get the, er, point).

As a parent, I can avoid turning the TV to “Sex in the City” or “The Sopranos.” But I have no way of knowing when such ads will appear. And I’m not sure a V-chip would either.

Whenever Hollywood producers bemoans the evils of censorship, I have trouble siding with them completely because I know that while they talk a high-minded anti-censorship, free-speech game, they steadfastly refuse to handle the selling of their material in a responsible way.

In short, for me it’s not irresponsible programming. It’s irresponsible marketing.

Your thoughts?
  • Too bad. Lap dances at Applebee's might actually get me to go. (Okay, just in case my girlfriend is that's an empty threat; I've only even been to Hooters once. And speaking of things inappropriate for kids, how about the folks who take their kids to eat there?)

    As for Senator Obama's comments . . . When I hear such things I usually fall back on my default position of opposing more government regulation of entertainment. I don't have the kind of blind trust in markets that capital-L Libertarians exhibit, but neither do I think that making the federal government an arbiter of decency is a really wise idea. I don't see any truly compelling evidence that a crackdown is in order - especially in the age of Tivo, TV series on DVD, and other ways to avoid commercials (which I think are bad for kids no matter what they're for).
  • Oops. That sentence should have read, . . . just in case my girlfriend is reading, that's an empty threat . . . Proofreading! It helps.
  • Granted, I will agree, we should have content appropiate advertisements. I am not for Cencorship in any way shape or form, but if we are going to be airing commericals for Hooters or the next horror flick on prime-time, the prime time show better have the same rating. You don't see commericals for little kids (Fisher Price) durring Sex in the City. So why are we doing it the other way around. Family Friendly shows should have Family friendly advertisements.

    Here is a new Problem. Who gets to decide what is Family Friendly and what is inappropiate for tv? It is both the responsability of the V-Chip broadcasters and the Parents to be well informed. If the Parent says, I don't care on one hand, and lets the child watch, play, or see the content, how would the parent have the right to respond negativity to the content?
  • I think that censorship in any form is Anti-freedom and Anti-American. I think that me must understand that these are not porn ads, or ads that show nudity. I feel that often some people in society feel that things should be molded around their views or their situation, which isn't fair.

    Many people don't have children, and this is a moot point. Others will say that it is the parents responsiblity to supervise and tell their children about social issues. Things like commericals for erectile disfunction, commericals on gambling in Las Vegas, etc.. Last I checked we were not in Russa or Cuba, so lets stop talking about how to censor this thing or that thing!

    So I think that while commercials bring up touchy products, we must also understand that little kids most of the time, won't even know what is being advertised anyway. If they are old enough to ask, then that parent should be brave enough to explain.
  • wondering:
    I understand your concern about who decides. Ideally, what should happen is that the networks think through when they are placing certain ads, without having to worry about boycotts or government involvement. TV shows get labeled. Parents can decide on what works or doesn't work for their family. Commercials don't get such ratings. Any viewer is at their mercy. A G-rated program can become PG-13 very quickly when you factor in the ads.

    In your first sentence you say that censorship in any form is Anti-American.
    In the next you say that these are not porno ads.
    If you believe a., then b. shouldn't matter.
    Besides, I wasn't talking about censoring. I was talking about networks taking responsibility. And how difficult it is to respect them when they don't.
    Of course it's the parents responsibility to talk to their children. But parents should be able to decide, within reason, when to bring up those issues. Responsible parents are aware of what their children watch. Irresponsible broadcasters make that difficult.
    As to little kids understanding, just about any child knows what's going on when a CSI promo shows a bloody murder victim.

    Thanks to all for the interesting input,

  • If advertisers voluntarily submitted to applying the same TV content ratings as the TV shows themselves, that might take care of some things that might cause parents heartburn. But in the case of commercials for movies, doesn't the MPAA certify those to be suitable for all audiences? (Or is that just for trailers in the movie theatre?) Even if you had the ability to block objectionable commercials with a V-chip, something like that could slip through, and that ends up not addressing Sen. Obama's concern (which I gather you share, Lou). So then what?

    I'm not going to go so far as to say that any kind of censorship anywhere is un-American (that doesn't really hold up to historical scrutiny anyway), but I am nonetheless leery of the heavy hand of the FCC, which is where discussions like the one I just put forth seem to point.
  • I have a dvr and record most programs to watch later or I start watching a program halfway in so I can fast forward commercials. It's actually rare that I see any ads at all. I don't have children, so none of this is a concern for me. I'm more offended by idiot programming than anything a commercial could throw at me. I think people should realize that they're raising children to be adults and live in an adult world. Like a previous poster stated, some kids are too young to know what they're seeing and if they're older and ask questions, then just answer them. They won't be kids forever and you can't shield them from the world. If you try, you're doing them a great disservice. There are family friendly channels in general, so if it's really a concern for people, watch the ABC Family Channel, Disney, NOGIN, ect. Of course the safest bet is
    probably good ol' PBS.

    Does anyone remember commercials from the 70's? There are tons of them on YouTube. They were full of sexual innuendo. Try looking up some 70's ads. I think we're regressing in our attitudes about what is acceptable and what isn't.

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