AS I SEE IT - 2/09/2001
In what has to be a major victory for those of us who have been fighting the
efforts of the Parents Television Council, the new head of the Federal Communications
Commission, Michael Powell, made clear in an article appearing on Yahoo News his lack of
interest in regulating wrestling and entertainment programming wished for by such groups.
The article in full can be read at here, with the relevant comments below:
The Wednesday article by Erik Wemple entitled The FCC's Powell on Politics and Vince McMahon stated those who feared a "more pious set of content rules needn't worry about Powell".
"..."When asked how the FCC should handle raunchy and violent content over the public airwaves, Powell vowed to stay away. 'If you look at the top 10 programs in America, I'm not always heartened by the idea that eight of them are WWF wrestling,' Powell said. 'But I love my countrymen, and they love their wrestling....
Further, Powell outlined a 'classic noninterventionist stance on the regulation of TV programming'. He states that "the commission is at its worst when to tries to burrow down and actually say which programming is harmful. The chairman, though, distanced himself from "garbage" content on TV, much of which he considers unsuitable for children. But the role of government, he argued, is not to play nanny. 'I still have never understood why things as simple as turning it off are not part of the answer to this question...."
Indeed, the very strategy that those of us who have been active for well over a year to preserve the right to view the form of entertainment that we enjoy, and make our own choices as to the suitability of such programming for our children; may finally be seeing that in, of all places, the new Republican Administration, common sense may be intruding.
Before I get hate mail from the conservatives who read this column, the fact of the matter is that, in the past, Republican Administrations have featured more socially conservative agendas. While it's clear that this trend is still true for 95% of the social issues confronting the United States in 2001, it seems not to be for this issue of government censorship of entertainment.
Not yet, anyhow.
Such statements have to be a disappointment on those who would tell us that they know better than we do what we should watch, listen to, and read. Most of those who are members of L. Brent Bozell's crusade were supportive of George Bush's election.
What Michael Powell seems to be suggesting is the same thing that we have been saying all along: one need not like a form of entertainment to believe it has a right to exist. Personally, I wouldn't lose a minute of sleep if MTV's Jackass went off the air tomorrow. I wouldn't lose any sleep if Temptation Island went off the air, either. Both shows strike me as exercises in idiotic, overblown exhibitionism. Now, on the other hand, I do watch Celebrity Death Match. I find it funny as hell.
But I'll be damned if some self-appointed moral authority tells me that I can't watch these or any other television show. That is the issue in a nutshell.
It has nothing whatever to do with the supposed moral purity of ideologues like L. Brent Bozell, tied to extremist religious cults and political organizations who love masquerading as crusaders for the rights of the family. Nor does it have anything to do with the "American Family Association" or Rev. D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church who wrap their wishes to remove television programming choices in their Christian views.
The whole issue comes down, by even their own estimation, in those rare times when they're being honest...to a cultural war. The PTC, the AFA, and the pay and pray religious right are engaging in a political exercise...to get power over what we can watch. As you've seen, it isn't limited to just Smackdown and Monday Night RAW. It's now spread to television shows like Temptation Island and Jackass. As I've said, I haven't watched the shows, nor have I any interest in doing so.
Yet we see the "American Family Association" asking people to:
"Join Others in Saying "NO" to Temptation Island...'Temptation Island' will continue its attack on the sanctity of marriage in prime-time as it airs again tonight on FOX. Please join the American Family Association in calling for the removal of this offensive program"
"Sanctity of marriage"? In Temptation Island, these are all single adults who have freely chosen to engage in this exercise of exhibitionism. They are responsible for dealing with the consequences of their choices, and no one else.
In the case of Jackass, we're talking about semi-trained stunt people who engage in the actions you see on the show. The producers of Jackass repeatedly tell viewers not to engage in these actions, warn of how dangerous many of the stunts are, and state they will not take tapes from those seeking to imitate the style of the show.
But again, what these extremist political groups are talking about has little resemblance to what they actually want. It comes down to them feeling that they have the right to tell you what you can choose to see. They don't give a damn about the children who are injured burned imitating a stunt. They don't really give a damn if a romantic relationship breaks up as a result of the couple appearing on a TV show.
What it is, instead, is that these organizations and their supporters see something that coming from a different world than the one they live in, with a set of political or moral values that are in any way different... have to be removed from the airwaves; so that their social view can dominate the airwaves.
These groups aren't going away either.
The following article in Media Life Magazine should remind you of that:
"....Its remarkable how much influence a letter writer can have on marketing decisions. One letter to the right person can lead to a note saying, take care of this problem, says a media buyer in the Midwest...
...Its because clients are in such highly competitive environments. If you anger enough customers, it could make a difference.
One media research director says: "Its the silent majority who think these shows are no big deal but certain advertisers are very skittish about getting letters. The American Family Association claims to have 500,000 members and they threaten boycotts. And CEOs and boards of directors quake in fear...
...Our clients dont want to get letters from consumers," says Roy Rothstein, vice president and director of national broadcast research at Zenith Media. "We try to avoid anything that will create confrontation so were cognizant of whats going on and get enough advance notice."
The fact that we have been able to play a part of limiting the effect of the Parents Television Council and groups like this who do what is referred to above; with much less money and access to mainstream media, with what seems to be a lack of assistance from some of those within the largest elements of the wrestling media...is remarkable and speaks volumes of the dedication of many of you reading this column.
For the right to enjoy this programming, we will all have to continue fighting these people for the advertising dollars of corporate America, so that our favorite shows remain on the air.
I know many of you grow weary of these issues being discussed in this and many other wrestling columns. I'd rather talk about whether or not HHH is getting pushed too much, or if Paul Heyman can save ECW.
Many of you have other things to think about in real life. These days, I certainly do.
But as long as I see people trying to take away one of the few pleasures I get in this life these days...I'm going to continue to talk about what they want to do to you and me to take those pleasures away, and why they are trying to do so.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)