Craig: Is it time to rate the TV commercials?
Has anyone been watching the commercials on television recently? While technology and the due diligence of groups such as the Parent Television Council have made for a comprehensive system to help parents monitor and guide their children’s viewing choices, it has become the unregulated, unmonitored commercials that have made this aspect of parenting so difficult.
I should start by stating that I firmly defend the First Amendment and thus am absolutely against censorship of any sort. Though I may dislike the content of a particular show, CD, etc., I fully support the right of a grown adult to make that choice to either watch or not watch something I might deem offensive. There is a time and place for everything on television, and adults should have the freedom to make those decisions for themselves. After all, if you don’t like it, as I opined in my recent column on Brother Nathanael, don’t watch.
That is why the parental television ratings, while arguably vague and inconsistent, have been so remarkably helpful. Rather than advocate for a program to be removed from the air, it provides parents with an understanding of the content of the show and thus affords them the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding its suitability for their child. The emergence of the V-chip even allows parents to block programs with varying levels or types of mature content. This affords conscientious parents an opportunity to reasonably monitor what their children are exposed to.
The uncontrolled variable, however, is commercials. Based upon the current system, commercials are completely unregulated and do not have to follow the content guidelines for the programming during which they are viewed.
The best example of this is sports programming. A long-suffering, only recently redeemed Red Sox fan I love watching baseball with my son; this viewing involves no violence, profanity or sexual content. I must, however, remain ever vigilant with remote in hand because at any moment he could be subjected to a promo for some horror movie or a commercial for a video game with a character blowing another one’s head off. No young child should be subjected to that, especially when they were watching what should be a family-friendly event with their parents.
Now, of course parents need to be vigilant about monitoring their children and what they watch. This is not to abdicate their responsibilities as a parent. That said, no parent can be there for every moment of every program. Even adults require the occasional potty or snack break.
We need to have a reliable system so parents can research individual programming content and rely on that to make informed decisions about what their children can and cannot watch. As a part of that, we need to have an equally thorough and comprehensive rating system for commercials that assures the content level of the advertising is in line with the programming that the parent has deemed acceptable. After all, what is the purpose of a rating system for television shows if the content of the commercials does not correspond to the content of the selected program? It’s all well and good to make sure my children watch family-friendly programming, but it’s of no use if during that show they are subjected to Brittney Spears grinding herself against heaven knows what or Mel Gibson putting a slug into a bad guy’s cranium (OK, fair enough – nobody should be subjected to Mel Gibson movies!).
Steven Craig is a Silverthorne resident, educator, husband and father of two, and vice-president of the Summit County Library Board. He can be reached at: email@example.com
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