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V is for Chip.

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In the late 80’s I had a day job working at Radio Shack. Many times parents would come in to the store and ask if there was a device that they could hook up to their TV so their kid’s wouldn’t watch the TV, watch certain channels, watch certain shows or just not watch TV before doing their homework. At the time there wasn’t any technology to do that. When I was a kid if my parents told me not to watch TV, guess what, I didn’t watch TV, my co-workers concurred. There was no need for technology to do the parent’s job for them.

A Parent once told me, “I’m not for censorship, I just want Hollywood not to make shows (or movies) that would corrupt our children to begin with”. A compromise was made. In the mid 1990s the broadcasting industry created a voluntary ratings system intended to accompany all television programming. This ratings system is known as TV Parental Guidelines. A monitoring board ensures that the ratings guidelines are applied accurately and consistently across the television-programming spectrum. Rating labels appear in the corner of your television screen during the first 15 seconds of each television program as well as in the television listings of many newspapers. The labels were created to help parents determine which programs provide suitable viewing for their children. Each label corresponds to the degree, if any, of the following content contained in the designated program: Violence (V), Sex (S), coarse Language (L), and sexual Dialogue (D). I’m sure parents often disagreed with the monitoring boards determination, because they might have a stronger sense of what is suitable viewing for their children. I’ll bet the TV ratings system works as well as the movie rating system. I constantly see parents bring the little ones to a “PG-13”, “NC-17” or “R” rated movie. Even though in the lobby of the theater there are explanations of the ratings systems with cute illustrations for the illiterate parent. So parents once again demanded that Hollywood not make certain shows that would corrupt their children. Hollywood compromised with new technology that could to do the parent’s job for them. Enter the V-chip. The V-chip lets parents block television programming they don’t want their children to watch by electronically reading television-programming ratings and allowing parents to block programs they believe are unsuitable for their children. But little Timmy mastered the V-chip technology faster than his parents did. So parents once again demanded that Hollywood not make certain shows that would corrupt their children. I have two observations here. First, a big complaint that parents have about TV shows is that the children are depicted as being smarter than their parents are. That complaint looses credibility when you admit that little Timmy has mastered the V-chip technology faster than his parents did. Second, parents are outraged over the fact that little Timmy mastered the V-chip faster than they did, but find it funny that little Timmy can open Mommy’s child proof bottle of Prozac when Mommy can’t figure out the child proof cap herself. So something that could kill little Timmy takes a back seat to a TV show.

To quote WKRP in Cincinnati’s Les Nessman (Richard Sanders), “In a situation like this, I always ask myself, what would my hero Edward R. Murrow think? And I think that Ed would think that this was censorship. Then I think about what my other hero, General George Patton, would think, and I think George would think that radio and television ought to be cleaned up, and if he were alive today, he’d take two armoured calvalry divisions into Hollywood and knock all those liberal pinheads into the Pacific! So as you can see, I’m a very confused man. And when I get confused, I watch TV. Television is never confusing. It’s all so simple somehow”.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

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About Tony Figueroa

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    I always wondered what the “D” was for. Never could figure that one out.

    Oh, and everyone knows it’s not the TV that’s corrupting our kids, it’s the video games. Duh.

    /sarcasm off/