V Chip, The Advantages Of Having One

2734 words - 11 pages

Bellanca WilsonRTVResearch paperThe objective of this paper is to examine the so-called "v-chip" and its potential as a way to control the content of television programs. While it represents a politically attractive way to deal with the problem of violence on television, it will not prove to be an effective and useful way to actually control what American children view on television.The v-chip represents the first technology-based attempt to censor broadcast content. The v-chip is a special computer chip that can be built into a television set that is capable of reading an electronics rating signal and blocking programs with potentially objectionable violence, sex or language. (Wall Street Journal:A14).In the past, the actual program content of a television program was controlled by two things-regulation from the Federal Communications Commission, which has the power to grant and take away broadcast licenses, and secondly by the broadcast networks themselves. This latter task has been performed primarily by network "broadcast standards" executives who preview show scripts in early production and then make final changes in dialogue during the final taping of a show. (Silver:68).From the perspective of the FCC, the problems are more obscenity than violence. In the 1960s, for example, a swollen Lucille Ball could not say the word "pregnant" on the air, while other television shows such as "The Untouchables" were filled with stories of gun battles between police and gangsters. It is true that the way violence was shown on television was not as graphic as the typical movies; there was far less gore and blood involved. However, the immediate access of children to television and the sheer number of programs that contain acts of violence have focused attention on television as the medium that has the greatest influence on children's perception of violent behavior. A study by the American Psychological Association estimates that the typical child, watching 27 hours of television a week, will view 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence between the ages of 3 and 12 (Silver:66). The sheer numbers of these acts make it an easy target for critics of television.However, despite the focus on violence in television, and the frequent inclusion of violence in programs, the FCC seems to have been much more focused on obscenity in broadcast. The now famous "seven words you can't say" comedy routine by George Carlin reflects not only FCC policy but also the main focus of the network censors. However, the network censors focus on FCC compliance and avoidance of complaint on a program-by-program basis, not TV as a whole (Silver:69). A typical censor from the Fox network, for example, reports of a huge "gray zone" in terms of language-allowing the use of "screw" (as in "screw it"), but no in the context of sex, or "crap" so long as it was not used to describe defecation. Clearly these are words that would never have been allowed three decades ago on the...

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