Indecency wars break out on V-Chip front

The Parents Television Council (PTC), an advocacy group crusading to rid the airwaves of programs that it finds indecent, declared war last week on a newly launched broadcast industry campaign encouraging use of the V-Chip to block programming inappropriate for children.

Broadcasters have funded an ad campaign to tell viewers that the V-Chip was designed to allow parents to block sexually explicit and violent television programming.

However, the PTC called the cable and satellite industry rating system, on which the V-Chip is based, “inaccurate.” Instead, the PTC said it supports legislation that would require pay TV operators to apply broadcast indecency standards or offer a la carte or new family tier programming.

The $300 million V-Chip campaign is intended to raise awareness of the TV ratings system and calls on parents to be “the boss of what your kids watch.” The campaign, reported CNET News, is supported by major cable, satellite and broadcast trade groups.

However, L. Brent Bozell, head of the PTC, described the campaign as a “shameful publicity stunt” that is “designed to absolve (the entertainment industry) of all responsibility for the raw sewage it pumps into America's living rooms night after night.”

By week's end, the Family Choice Act of 2006, co-sponsored by Reps. Dan Lipinski, D-IL, and Tom Osborne, R-NE., was introduced in the House. The bill requires cable and satellite providers to choose one of three options:

  • adhere to the same FCC indecency standards as broadcasters;
  • allow cable and satellite subscribers to opt out of certain channels and receive a refund;
  • or offer a tier of programming that includes expanded basic service minus channels carrying TV-14 or TV-MA programming between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. (News programs and live sporting events would be exempt.)

In this election year, the odds are against such a bill becoming law. Last month, the Senate Commerce Committee voted down a bill sponsored by Sen. John McCain, (R-AZ) that included a clause that would force cable operators to offer a la carte programming.